Wind picks up for European offshore grid plan

Nov 14, 2008 01:00 AM

The European Commission is promoting offshore wind energy development as part of its Second Strategic Energy Review, released in Brussels on 13 November. Endorsement by Brussels comes hot on the heels of massive growth in the sector.
"Wind resources over Europe's seas represent a vast, indigenous source of clean, renewable energy," the Commission said in a statement accompanying its new action plan to promote offshore wind energy.

Second only to natural gas in terms of new electricity capacity, wind power is considered the most promising option in the EU's portfolio of renewable energy technologies, which includes solar and hydro power too. Offshore wind power alone is likely to make up a significant part of the EU's efforts to achieve a 20 % share of renewables in final energy consumption, as set out in proposals currently being debated between member states and the European Parliament.
A recent study, sponsored by Greenpeace, predicts that an interconnected grid of North Sea wind farmswith an output of 68 GW could serve up to 70 mm households by 2030. The Commission's action plan ups that potential to 150 GW.

But the sector faces significant challenges, not least of which is raising the necessary funding to finance large, capital-intensive offshore projects. The spreading recession and a freeze on project financing is making the problem more acute. Offshore wind also "competes on the one hand with onshore wind for the existing turbine production capacity and on the other with the oil and gas exploration industry for the existing offshore equipment and expertise," the Commission points out in its action plan.
Furthermore, member states lack the capacity to coordinate such large-scale cross-border projects, particularly in the marine environment, the EU executive notes.

Europe's wind energy sector welcomed the action plan.
"The European Commission has identified Europe's largest untapped energy resources and understands offshore wind power's importance as a clean, inexhaustibleand above all indigenous source in a carbon and energy constrained future," Christian Kjaer, executive director of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), said.

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