Sector's insights

Europe in the offshore wind race

21 de June de 2022

Offshore wind energy is looking to become the driving force behind renewable energies. Its proven technology and its low visual and acoustic impact are presented as one of the most attractive solutions, although governmental barriers still hinder its definitive boost in the energy panorama.

Cutting-edge technology

Ease of transport and few limitations on load capacity make offshore wind an attractive way to drive the energy transition into the future. One of its main sources of value is its capacity to generate power compared to onshore wind: offshore wind achieves 10 MW of power, in contrast to onshore, where power outputs of around 5 MW are consolidated.

For the moment, Iberdrola is the leader in these farms in the United States with a development of 800 MW, serving more than 400,000 homes and businesses. They are trying to replicate this model in Europe, specifically in Saint Brieuc, France, with a capacity of 500 MW. The wind farm is expected to be operational next summer, and the Galician shipyard in Fene has been commissioned to manufacture the jackets – the structures that support the wind turbines at sea – for a value of 350 million euros. Galicia in particular is a region with enormous potential to meet all the needs of the offshore wind supply chain.

Although administrative, maintenance and installation barriers are a handicap for the implementation of these farms, the European Union and its member countries are seeking to accelerate the green transition, expanding massively with clean energy to pave the way for energy independence, especially at the current time when the REPowerEU plan seeks to end dependence on Russian gas.

Strategic opportunity

Europe has a strategic opportunity to position itself as a leader in clean energy. The United Kingdom is in first place, followed by Germany and the Netherlands, consolidating 64% of the GW generated by offshore wind in 2021. Spain, far from being a benchmark, has a decisive opportunity with its 6,000km of coastline. With depths ranging between 100 and 1,000m, the installation of turbines on its coasts would be done mainly through floating structures, in which it can become a benchmark.

This type of structure makes it possible to bring wind turbines to deeper waters far from the coast, where wind gusts are more powerful and with less visual and acoustic impact.

Within this framework of opportunity, the largest offshore wind farm planned in Galicia would install a capacity of 1,200 megawatts (MW) distributed in 80 wind turbines more than 30 kilometres off the coast of Ferrolterra, which would be placed in two phases and could create more than 6,000 jobs. This project falls within the roadmap of the Maritime Space Management Plan, which seeks to promote between 1,000 and 3,000 MW of offshore wind power in operation by 2030.

However, the POEM is still pending approval by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), something that worries industry and developers, because excessive bureaucracy and lack of regulatory framework is hindering the early development of this industry in Spain. The paradox is that the country, and the region of Galicia in particular, has the wind resource and know-how to lead this industry in Europe, but the risk is that this train will be missed due to a lack of timely responses.

In the current context, the forecasts for offshore wind are as positive as they are urgent, in view of the gas cap on the Iberian peninsula, the dependence on Russian gas and the cooling of Algeria’s relations with Spain, all factors that are fanning the fuse in the acceleration of clean, local energy. Projects are growing and so are wind farms – their average size has doubled in 10 years, according to WindEurope. Offshore wind is getting bigger, being built further away and in deeper and deeper waters. These developments augur a long and prosperous future for offshore wind farms, but only for those who get on this train of the future in time.