North Sea Summit: More offshore parks planned in the North Sea: Which countries are already relying heavily on wind energy

When it comes to electricity production from renewable energy sources, the EU plays a leading role internationally.

North Sea Summit: More offshore parks planned in the North Sea: Which countries are already relying heavily on wind energy

When it comes to electricity production from renewable energy sources, the EU plays a leading role internationally. But when it comes to expanding wind energy, it is lagging behind in a global comparison. Unlike solar, which grew by a quarter, wind power grew by less than 10 percent last year -- compared to a 17 percent increase worldwide.

Only a few weeks ago, the G7 industrial nations set themselves ambitious goals for wind energy for the first time. The environment and climate ministers want to build around 150 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2030 – which corresponds to the capacity of 150 nuclear power plants. The USA and Canada in particular still have a great deal of untapped potential.

Germany obtains around a third of its electricity from solar and wind power plants. Since long-term obstacles stand in the way of the rapid expansion of wind energy, especially onshore, many plans focus on the offshore area: by 2030 it has already been decided to install around 26 GW of offshore capacity, i.e. wind energy from the high seas.

At a conference of nine countries bordering the North Sea, things should now be even more ambitious. Seven EU countries plus Great Britain and Norway want to commit in Ostend, Belgium, to quadrupling offshore wind energy capacity by the end of the decade. The North Sea is to become the green European powerhouse. A total of 120 GW is to be launched by 2030, followed by a further 300 GW by 2050.

Last year, the value of offshore wind energy in the nine states was around 30 GW, according to the Belgian government. About eight GW came from Germany, most of them from the North Sea. France, Norway and Ireland, on the other hand, each produced significantly less than one gigawatt.

But who shows the greatest ambition to expand wind farms on the high seas? These countries are ahead:

The island is already the world's leading wind farm operator at sea. According to the Danish operator Orsted, the Hornsea 2 wind farm off the coast of Yorkshire is the number one offshore farm with a capacity of 1.3 GW and 15 turbines from Siemens Gamesa. By 2030, the British want to produce another 50 GW more offshore energy. At seabed auctions, the UK guarantees developers an electricity price. With 13 contracts awarded in March, primarily to North Sea oil and gas companies, the first 5 GW have been awarded. In addition, licenses for floating wind turbines with up to 4 GW capacity in the Celtic Sea in the Atlantic will be issued in 2023.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm off the coast of the Guerande Peninsula in the west of the country. Foundations for wind turbines can be installed in the seabed at a water depth of up to 60 metres. France has long missed its targets for expanding renewable energy. Wind power accounted for seven percent of the primary energy mix in 2021. Now Paris shows more ambition. A new law stipulates that the installed capacity on land in particular will be doubled by 2050. Offshore, three projects totaling 1,450 MW are already under construction. In 2023, specific tenders are pending off the coast of Brittany (250 MW) and in the Mediterranean (250 MW). By 2030, a further seven offshore turbines with a total of 5,350 MW are to be connected to the grid, mainly in Brittany and Normandy. Floating wind farms, mainly off the Mediterranean coast, are also being planned.

Aerial view of a wind farm near Surbo, south of Bari. The sustainable offshore energy industry has long been a sector believed dead in Italy. But usable land for wind energy in rural areas is becoming scarce. At the same time, the land is surrounded by the sea. However, since the seabed usually drops down quickly, offshore wind farms with solid foundations have not been an option up until now. The development of floating turbines by energy companies is now opening the way for offshore wind turbines to be installed out of sight of tourists and local residents. Windy areas like Tunisia and Sardinia come into consideration. In 2023, 2024 at the latest, licenses for up to 1 GW of capacity are to be issued.

Because of the oil and gas industry, Norway still has a long way to go towards climate neutrality. But a revolution started in the field of wind energy last year, which is why more offshore wind ships like the "Edda Breeze" are needed: The Directorate for Water Resources and Energy (NVE) has been allowed to issue new licenses since the end of 2022. The first tenders are running, a fifth of the planned zones have been released: between Norway and Denmark and between Stavanger and Bergen. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Störe set the goal of 30 GW of reported offshore wind capacity by 2040. That is almost as much as the amount of energy produced in 2022. Because of the depth of the sea, the country wants to increasingly rely on floating systems in the future.

In Spain, too, the development of offshore wind power was slowed down by the very deep waters in which it was not possible to create solid foundations. Onshore wind power is already the leading electricity supplier (see picture of the La Lancha mountain pass). With the help of floating systems, the government now wants to achieve a leading role in European offshore wind power. By the end of the year, licenses are to be issued in the area around the Canary Islands. The designation of the areas was positively received by the industry. However, the most recent tenders for onshore wind and solar systems found little response in 2022.

Taiwan aims to become carbon neutral by 2050. In late 2022, the government announced tenders for seven wind farms in the Strait of Taiwan, which would add 3 GW of capacity and should come online in 2026-2027. Another concrete round is to follow in the fourth quarter. The island has thus entered the third phase of a far-reaching wind energy expansion plan that also includes floating turbines and the installation of 15 GW of capacity – incrementally at 1.5 GW annually from 2026 to 2035.

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