By Kari Williamson
The offshore wind farms – representing 35 times more capacity than the just under 4 GW installed today – could provide 13.1% of Europe's total electricity production, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) says.
Most of the capacity is in north-western Europe, and offshore wind farms with a capacity of 5.6 GW are currently under construction in the UK, Germany and Belgium.
"There is huge developer interest in offshore wind energy across Europe," says Arthouros Zervos, President of EWEA. "Developers, governments and investors realise that offshore wind energy offers the growth and jobs that Europe desperately needs."
The EU offshore wind energy sector is expected to create 169,000 jobs by 2020, going up to 300,000 by 2030, according to the EWEA. European companies are currently global leaders, with over 99% of the world's installed offshore wind power capacity in European waters.
Areas of growth
Areas for growth in offshore wind energy include turbine and turbine component manufacturing as well as substructures, vessels, electrical infrastructure including high voltage subsea cables, and ports.
However, the report from EWEA warns that if the offshore wind energy sector's potential is to be fulfilled in Europe, it is imperative that sufficient levels of financing are brought in by investors. Also crucial are the financing and building of offshore power grids in the northern and Baltic seas, which would enable huge amounts of electricity to be transported to consumers.
For the industry itself, there is a risk of a high-voltage subsea cable shortage in the next few years which has to be addressed urgently, says the report, as well as a possible shortage of trained workers.
"The offshore wind energy sector can replicate the success of the onshore wind technology development, which is now a mainstream source of power competitive with new coal and gas plants, and a major European industry," says Zervos.
"However, to ensure this happens, EU decision-makers need to set ambitious renewable energy targets beyond 2020, invest more in research and develop offshore grids".