European offshore wind energy reaches record output in 2017

Growth driven by lower costs to install turbines, bigger turbines and increased capacity

Last year was a record one for offshore wind energy in Europe, according to statistics released on Tuesday by WindEurope.

Growth has been driven by reduced costs in installing offshore turbines, efficiencies arising from the size of turbines, and increased capacity, the industry group said.

Europe installed 3.1 gigawatts (GW) of new offshore wind, taking total capacity to 15.8GW, an increase of 25 per cent on 2016.

A total of 13 new offshore wind farms were completed, including the world's first floating offshore wind farm known as Hywind Scotland. Europe has more 4,000 offshore wind turbines.


Ireland has only one offshore wind farm, the Arklow Bank in the Irish Sea. Built in 2004, the seven-turbine facility with 25-megawatt (MW) capacity was a "demonstrator project" to prove the opportunity offshore wind energy could represent for Ireland.

SSE Ireland is seeking to fully develop Arklow Bank, in an investment of over €1 billion, and deliver a minimum of 520MW of electricity capacity. However, it recently called for a clear Government policy statement supporting the sector.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Denis Naughten has acknowledged the potential of Irish offshore wind resources.


WindEurope chief executive Giles Dickson said: "A 25 per cent increase in one year is spectacular. Offshore wind is now a mainstream part of the power system. And the costs have fallen rapidly. Investing in offshore wind today costs no more than in conventional power generation."

He said Europe was in a position to embrace a much higher “renewables target” for 2030. “35 per cent is easily achievable. Not least now that floating offshore wind farms are also coming online.”

Mr Dickson added: “We’ll see further growth in 2018 and 2019. But the longer term outlook for offshore wind is unclear. Very few countries had defined yet what new volumes they want to install up to 2030.

“The national plans governments are preparing under the Clean Energy Package will tell us more. The message to governments as they prepare their plans is ‘go for it on offshore wind’; it’s perfectly affordable and getting cheaper still; it’s a stable form of power with increasing capacity factors.”

New turbines

The average size of the new turbines was 5.9MW, a 23 per cent increase on 2016. And the average size of the new offshore wind farms was 493MW, a 34 per cent increase on 2016. A further 11 offshore wind farms are currently under construction.

Offshore wind energy in Europe remains heavily concentrated in a small number of countries. WindEurope said 98 per cent of it was in the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times