European wind energy growth slowed by financing squeeze

In 2010, wind energy’s rate of growth shrank compared to previous years. Strong growth in newer onshore wind farm markets in Eastern Europe could not make up for the drop in new onshore wind turbines installations elsewhere.

In 2010, 9,295 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity, worth close to €13 billion, was installed in the EU. Wind energy installations accounted for almost 17% of total new installations in Europe last year, the fi rst year since 2007 that the EU did not install more wind power than any other generating technology. Installed wind energy capacity increased by 12% to 84,278 MW, compared to the previous year.

According to EWEA statistics, 8,377 MW were installed last year in the onshore wind farm sector while the offshore wind turbines sector saw 883 MW being installed. The EWEA analysis — ‘Wind in power – 2010 European statistics’ — showed that last year the annual onshore market contracted by 15% compared to 2009, while the offshore market grew by 51% compared to the previous year.

The statistics show that the European wind power industry in 2010 faced some problems caused by the ongoing financial crisis and credit slowdown. The 9,295 MW of additional capacity installed in EU nations last year represents a decrease in the trading bloc’s annual wind power installations of 11% compared to 2009.

“Remarkable growth in the onshore wind energy markets of Romania, Poland and Bulgaria could not make up for the decline in new onshore installations in Spain, Germany and the UK. Strong development of the offshore wind market was led by the UK, Denmark and Belgium,” said Christian Kjaer, Chief Executive Officer of EWEA.

The EWEA analysis was published the same day as the European Commission presented its Communication on the progress of renewable energy in the EU. Presenting the Communication, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said Europe will have to double its spending on renewables if it wants to meet its 2020 energy commitments.

“Some Member States have made progress and are in line to meet their targets, or have gone beyond them, but some are lagging behind,” Oettinger said. “We’re on the right track but we have to step up the pace.” To achieve the EU’s energy goals, Oettinger called for a doubling of capital investments in renewable energies from €35 billion to €70 billion.

The EWEA analysis showed that total investments in new wind power plants last year were unchanged at nearly €13 billion, compared to 2009, due to the larger share of offshore wind capacity. The analysis showed that €10.1 billion was invested in onshore wind during 2010, while the offshore wind power sector accounted for about €2.6 billion.

“The 2010 figures are a reminder that we cannot take for granted the continued growth of the European wind energy market”, commented Kjaer. “Better access to financing is urgently needed, and the European Union must act without delay to maintain Europe’s leadership in wind power and other renewable technologies given the ambitious challenges from abroad.”

Newer markets

Annual installations of wind power have increased steadily over the last 15 years from 814 MW in 1995 to the 9,295 MW in 2010, the analysis noted, adding that represents an annual average market growth of 17.6%. The overall market for new renewable power capacity, including wind, solar, hydro and biomass, reached record levels in 2010, increasing 30% from 17.5 GW in 2009 to 22.6 GW in 2010. Renewable energy accounted for 41% of all new installations.

Last year was the first year since 2007 that the EU did not install more wind power than any other generating technology. The EWEA analysis indicated the EU continues to move away from fuel oil and nuclear power for electricity production, decommissioning more old capacity than installing new capacity.

However, for only the second time since 1998, the EU installed more coal power capacity than it decommissioned in 2010. With regard to all new electricity generating capacity, 55.4 GW was installed last year, compared to 27.7 GW in 2009. Gas represented 51% of all new power capacity in 2010. Solar power PV, which came in second, installed 12 GW (21.7% of total capacity), followed by wind with close to 9.3 GW, according to the analysis.

In addition, 4,056 MW (7.3%) of coal, 573 MW (1%) of biomass, 405 MW (0.7%) of CSP, 208 (0.4%) of large hydro, 200 MW (0.4%) of peat, 149 MW (0.3%) of waste, 145 MW (0.3%) of nuclear, 25 MW of small hydro, 25 MW of geothermal energy, and 1.5 MW of tidal and wave capacity were installed. Significantly, no fuel oil capacity was added in the EU during 2010.

In terms of annual wind power installations, Spain was the largest market in 2010, installing 1,516 MW, compared to Germany’s 1,493 MW. France was the only other country to install over 1 GW (1,086 MW), followed by the UK (962 MW) and Italy (948 MW). Sweden (604 MW), Romania (448 MW), Poland (382 MW), Belgium (350 MW) and Portugal (345 MW) also all performed strongly and, for the fi rst time ever, two new Member States (Poland and Romania) are among the top ten largest annual markets. Offshore installations accounted for 9.5% of total EU installations in 2010.

Germany remains the EU country with the largest installed capacity, followed by Spain, France, the UK and Italy. Eight other countries have over 1 GW of installed capacity: Portugal, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Poland and Austria.

The wind power capacity installed by the end of 2010 will, in a normal wind year, produce 181 TWh of electricity (up from 163 TWh), meeting 5.3% of overall EU electricity consumption (4.8% in 2009). Denmark is the country with the highest penetration of wind power in electricity consumption (24%), followed by Spain (14.4%), Portugal (14%), Ireland (10.1%) and Germany (9.3%).

Overall, 2010 was a record year in the EU with 55.4 GW of new electricity generating capacity installed, more than double 2009 installations (a 102% increase). Last year was also the fi fth year in a row that wind power and other renewables represented more than 40% of total new EU electricity generating installations.

The still developing offshore sector seems poised to begin realising its considerable potential sooner rather than later. The amount of installed offshore wind capacity added last year (883 MW) was significantly bigger than in 2009 (582 MW), which was greater than in 2008 (357 MW). And 2011, according to predictions from EWEA, is expected to continue this same upward trend. EWEA forecasts that between 1,000 and 1,500 MW of new offshore wind capacity will be fully grid connected in Europe’s northern waters this year.

Ten wind farms, totalling 3,000 MW, are currently under construction, EWEA notes, adding upon completion Europe’s installed offshore capacity could increase to 6,200 MW. Another 19,000 MW are currently fully consented. Announcing the 2010 offshore statistics in mid-January, EWEA noted 308 new offshore wind turbines were installed last year, which represented an increase of 51% in installed wind power capacity over 2009.

The 883 MW of new capacity, worth some €2.6 billion, was installed in 2010 in nine wind farms in five countries, making a cumulative total of 2,964 MW. The installed offshore wind power capacity now supplies the equivalent of 2.9 million average EU households with electricity — comparable with the amounts of power consumed by the cities of Berlin and Brussels together — from a total of 1,136 offshore wind turbines. In a normal wind year they would produce 11.5 Terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity.

“With over 50% percent market growth, 2010 sets a new record for European offshore wind energy,” Kjaer said. “Meanwhile, the 29 new offshore wind turbine models announced during 2010 show a growing commitment to the offshore wind energy sector by large, global industrial players, offering a real boost for Europe’s economy, its efforts to tackle climate change, create green jobs and exports while reducing our dependence on imported fuel”.

Following the trends

EWEA’s annual offshore statistics — published as ‘European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 2010’ — show that work was carried out on 18 offshore wind farms last year. Nine wind farms were completed, eight of which were fully grid-connected. One wind farm was partially completed and grid-connected. In four other projects, work has begun but no turbines were connected during 2010. Preparatory onshore work was carried out for four other projects.

Britain was the European and world leader in offshore wind energy, with a total installed capacity of 1,341 MW. The UK is followed by Denmark (854 MW), The Netherlands (249 MW), Belgium (195 MW), Sweden (164 MW), Germany (92 MW), Ireland (25 MW), Finland (26 MW) and Norway with 2.3 MW.

“In 2010, Thanet in the UK became the biggest offshore wind farm in the world with a capacity of 300 MW installed,” the report noted. “In 2009, Horns Rev 2 in Denmark was the biggest offshore wind farm with a capacity of 209 MW. The third biggest offshore wind farm is also in Danish waters, and was connected to the grid in 2010 — Rødsand 2 (207 MW).”

Britain also has the largest number of offshore wind farms (13) and the largest number of turbines (436). Denmark has 12 wind farms and 400 turbines. The Netherlands has four offshore wind farms and 128 wind turbines.

In terms of other highlights, EWEA noted 2010 saw two major deals come to financial close: Thornton Bank C-Power (325 MW) and Trianel Wind Farm Borkum West II (200 MW). Both projects use wind turbines of 5 MW or more “Finance remains a big challenge but we are seeing improvements with more banks and other financing institutions ready to invest in large offshore wind projects,” Kjaer said. The report pointed out last year saw the arrival of financial investors — pension funds — as investors into the sector, with two notable transactions in the second half of 2010.

Offshore wind last year experienced a flow of investment announcements from utilities which have continued to increase their balance sheet commitments to the sector, the report said, adding national and international fi nance institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and export credit agencies have been critical for the development during a critical juncture.

“They are likely to remain active in the sector in the near future, providing critical liquidity at a low cost, and will help ensure that a smooth transition can be engineered towards a more mature market when commercial banks are able to do large transactions without them”, said the report. It added that European manufacturers are developing 6 and 7 MW prototypes, including dedicated offshore concepts, while foreign companies are mainly developing 5 MW wind turbines.

A bit of networking

A future offshore grid at the centre of EU energy policy came closer to realisation, the report said, with the signing of the memorandum of understanding by the North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative, and the European Commission’s Communication ‘Energy infrastructure priorities for 2020 and beyond – A Blueprint for an integrated European energy network.’

The report also noted that significant steps were taken in 2010 on planning, financing and constructing specific offshore cables – in particular NorGer, CobraCable, East-West interconnector, BritNed, NorNed 2, UK/Norway, Kriegers Flak, and NordBalt.

Ten European wind farms are currently under construction with a total of 3,000 MW – these will more than double the installed capacity in the 45 already grid connected offshore wind farms. EWEA research also shows that, if constructed, the 19,000 MW of offshore wind capacity already fully consented would generate 66.6 TWh of electricity in a normal wind year — enough to supply 14 of the largest capitals in Europe with electricity, including Paris, London and Berlin. Not included in this fi gure is large additional offshore wind energy capacity planned but not yet fully consented in the UK.

European wind energy in 2010: an overview

• 9,295 MW of wind power capacity (worth €12.7 billion) was installed in the EU during 2010, down 11% compared to the previous year.
• 8,412 MW of the new capacity was onshore, 883 MW offshore.
• Wind power accounted for 16.8% of total 2010 European power capacity installations.
• Wind power increased its cumulative installed capacity to 84,278 MW (9.6% of EU power capacity).
• Annual installations of wind power in Europe have increased on average by 17.6% over the last 15 years.
• Germany remains the EU country with the largest installed capacity, followed by Spain, Italy, France and the UK.
• The wind capacity installed by the end of 2010 would in a normal year produce 181 TWh of electricity, representing 5.3% of electricity consumption.

Global wind energy in 2010: an overview

• 35,800 MW of wind power capacity (worth €47.3 billion) was installed in the world during 2010, down 7% compared to the previous year.
• Wind power increased its cumulative installed capacity to 194,400 MW.
• For the first time in 2010, more than half of all new wind power was added outside of Europe and North America, mainly due to China which accounted for nearly half the new wind installations (16.5 GW).
• The US, traditionally one of the strongest wind markets, saw its annual installations drop by 50% from 10 GW in 2009 to just over 5 GW in 2010.
• However, China and many other countries increased their wind capacity growth, including India, which added 2.1 GW in 2010, Brazil (326 MW), Mexico (316 MW), and 213 MW were installed in North Africa (Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia).
• Wind energy now provides 2.5% of the world’s electricity.

What exactly are “megawatts” and what do they mean?

The ability of a wind turbine or power plant to generate electricity – or what is known as its “capacity” – is measured in watts. Watts are very small units, so the terms kilowatt (kW, 1,000 watts), megawatt (MW, a million watts), and gigawatt (GW, a billion watts) are most commonly used.

Electricity production and consumption are most commonly measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A kilowatt-hour means one kilowatt (1,000 watts) of electricity produced or consumed for one hour. One 50-watt light bulb left on for 20 hours consumes one kilowatt-hour of electricity (50 watts x 20 hours = 1,000 watt-hours = 1 kilowatt-hour).

A turbine with a capacity of 2.5–3 MW can produce more than 6 million kWh in a year – enough to supply 1,500 average EU households with electricity.

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