Europe’s ability to produce power from wind grew by up to 25% over the course of 2017, taking total capacity to 15.8 gigawatts, a clear record for production.
As well as an increasing quantity of turbines operational, individual units have become both larger and more efficient, further increasing capacity. 13 new offshore windfarms were connected to the grid, with more under construction and scheduled to start producing power in 2018.
Technical records were also broken, including: the installation of the first large-capacity floating windfarm( Hywind 2) off the coast of Aberdeenshire in Scotland, the first French offshore turbines, and the first ice-resistance windfarm in Finland.
The UK’s contribution to these statistics has been highlighted, with 53% of capacity installed in British waters. Regarding the internal market, 5.3% of UK energy was produced by offshore wind generation, up from 4.8% in 2016 and a new record. 2016/17 was a record-breaking year in general for British energy production, with wind power overtaking coal for the first time. Overall wind generation (so including onshore farms) increased by 31% in 2017 to a total overall production capacity of 49 terawatt hours. Wind produced more power than coal for 302 days in 2017.
Offshore wind power could also be a potentially lucrative market for the UK government, with companies expected to sell energy to the National Grid at lower prices than nuclear-generated power, currently pinned at the £92.50 per megawatt hour figure agreed for when Hinkley Point C starts producing viable electricity. Just as 53% of European capacity was installed in the UK, a similar percentage of EU financial investment was directed to British projects.
A report by WindEurope highlighted five key statistics that indicate the changing face of wind power generation:
- 1 Gigawatts of capacity installed, double the figure from 2016, and record year for Europe.
- 25% increase of overall capacity to 15.8 Gigawatts, over 94 windfarms and a total of 4,149 turbines.
- 23% increase in average production by individual turbines, increasing to 5.9 Megawatts.
- €5bn investment in offshore wind power in Germany and the UK alone.
- €2bn in non-recourse debt extended by lenders to corporations in order to finance offshore windfarms.
Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope, stated that the “25% increase in one year is spectacular. Offshore wind is now a mainstream part of the power system.” He noted that rising capacity and production efficiency was being met by falling costs, indicating that it was an attractive market for investors as well as reducing environmental impact.
2018 is forecast to break further records, especially as a number of windfarms in UK waters were not completed to schedule and thus should start producing energy for the National Grid this year. The UK is expected to continue to produce the most power from offshore energy as far as the longest-term estimates of 2030. Germany, the Netherlands, and France are predicted to produce the next highest capacity figures.