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Blowing in the wind, mapping the sea

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Where are offshore wind farms located in European maritime areas and what are their extent?

Offshore wind energy has increasingly become one of the more dynamic renewables sectors in Europe since the first commercial offshore generators were established in Denmark in 1991.

According to the European Environment Agency (Renewable energy in Europe 2017. Recent growth and knock-on effects), the energy produced by offshore wind farms is still low compared to Hydropower and Onshore wind (2.750 Ktoe against 29.966 and 18.889 Ktoe respectively). Over the period 2005-2014 the compound annual growth rate of Renewables energies (RES-E) consumption was 7 %, among which the second highest rate was for offshore wind (29 %). The wind is blowing and the blades have started to spin.

In 2005 offshore wind power was 273 Ktoe, while in 2014 the electricity generation reached a normalised production of 2.750 Mtoe (an annual growth rate of 29 %), being Germany the Member State with the largest increase in normalised offshore wind power, followed by the United Kingdom (UK) and the Netherlands. Despite Germany’s boost, UK keeps the leadership in the EU-28 with a share of 46 % of the total production in 2015.

Over the period 2014-2020, a compound annual growth rate of 27 % is needed to reach the expected realisations in the NREAPs (National Renewable Energy Action Plans adopted by countries). This gives an impression of the increasing relevance of this sector in the European energy market, as a result of programs for clean power production in order to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Therefore, the need to plan and organise these uses in the maritime zone arises for sharing space with other activities, not only because marine renewable can interfere with other uses at sea, but also because environmental impacts might appear throughout the life cycle of marine renewable developments (OSPAR-Offshore Renewables).

The wind blows at sea and wind farms have arisen to take advantage of that natural strength. It is therefore not surprising that this sector has been selected as one of the 13 themes of interest of Human Activities (HA) to be mapped at the European maritime space. Offshore wind power is a growing sector in EU and, as in every human activity, there are always environmental concerns to be taken into account when developing infrastructures plans.

Thus, the first question the public may formulate is: where are offshore wind farms placed in European maritime areas? And in my country?

That is why mapping those areas is a fundamental  task for EMODnet, showing location and extent of the area covered –or potentially covered- by these generators. In this way, the first subdivision of the theme is established depending of the actual functioning state of the farm: Authorised, Operational, Planned, Production, Under Construction.

Wind Farm Areas

An useful view of those areas is displayed -together with the main characteristics of a given maritime zone where windmills are installed- just with a few clicks in EMODnet-Human Activities-Wind Farms. Consequently, geographical and technical data for each area are indicated (when available in the original sources) as descriptors: maritime location, distance from coast, number of turbines, power (MW), start date and status. As it can be seen on the map, most of the installations and projects are settled or going to be settled in the North Sea and Baltic Sea basins, whilst the Mediterranean remains with few projects. Anyway, the expected development for this sector is a continuous growing that has started only some years ago. But, still, the answer about its future is blowing in the wind.

The information and views set out in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Commission. Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on the European Commission's behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information therein.

September 6th, 2017 | Written by

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