European body highlights scope for offshore wind contribution

UK offshore wind farms completed or in the planning pipeline have potential to produce more than 48GW of power, according to latest figures from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

The trade body reports that 141GW of offshore wind energy capacity is built, under construction, consented or planned across Europe. If all the schemes covered go ahead, they would be able to power 130 million average households and provide 13.1 per cent of Europe's total electricity production, EWEA said.

According to a EWEA report launched at the association’s Offshore 2011 event in Amsterdam, the UK has 1,586MW of offshore capacity already online. Another 4,308MW is under construction, 588MW has consent and a further 42GW is planned.

"There is huge developer interest in offshore wind energy across Europe," said EWEA president Arthouros Zervos. "Developers, governments and investors realise that offshore wind energy offers the growth and jobs that Europe desperately needs."

The report predicts that 169,000 jobs will be created in the EU offshore wind energy sector by 2020, rising to 300,000 by 2030. But it also warns that sufficient levels of financing must be brought in by investors if the offshore wind energy sector's potential is to be fulfilled. Financing and construction of offshore power grids in the North Sea are also essential, it says.

The figures were revealed as Prime Minister David Cameron called on investment, pension and sovereign wealth funds to pump money into large offshore wind projects. Cameron told a conference in London that much of the £200 billion of investment needed in UK will need to come from sources other than current major energy suppliers.

"I see offshore wind as a significant energy and industrial opportunity for the UK, and one that I am determined to seize. I believe the UK will remain the world’s most attractive offshore wind market for many years to come. We have abundant natural advantages and a world-leading marine engineering base," said Cameron.

Dr Gordon Edge, director of policy at trade body RenewableUK, welcomed Cameron’s support. "The government is sending out a strong message that it is committed to the development and deployment of renewable energy projects and the industry' supply chain to deliver them," he said.

Wind in Our Sails is available here.

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