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Costs falling fast, as wind energy booms in Europe

Europe’s offshore wind industry booming as costs fall  The European Union’s push away from fossil fuels toward renewables, along with falling costs, has seen offshore wind thrive with turbines being installed from the Irish to the Baltic Seas, reports Environment 360, Guardian, Christian Schwägerl, 2q1 Oct 16  “……In Europe, offshore wind farms like the one at Burbo Bank are undergoing a boom. While still significantly outnumbered by windfarms on land, the importance of windfarms at sea has grown dramatically in the past several years. Until 2011, between 5 and 10% of newly installed wind energy capacity in Europe was offshore. Last year, almost every third new wind turbine went up offshore. That growth has helped boost the share of wind energy in the European Union’s electricity supply from 2% in the year 2000 to 12% today, according toWindEurope, a business advocacy group.

New investments for offshore projects totaled $15.5bn in the first half of 2016 alone, according to WindEurope, and newly installed offshore wind energy capacity will double to 3.7 gigawatts this year compared to 2015. More than 3,300 grid-connected turbines now exist in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Irish Sea, and 114 new wind turbines were linked to the grid in European waters in the first half of this year alone. This is in stark contrast to the US and Asia, where offshore wind use is only just getting started.

The offshore wind boom is part of a wider move from fossil fuels to renewable energy across the European Union. The overall share of renewable electricity sources in the EU – hydropower, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal – has gone up from about 15% in 2004 to roughly 33% in 2014, according to data from Eurostat and Entso-E, the association of grid operators. Along with solar photovoltaic power, wind energy is driving this expansion. Newly installed wind energy capacity amounted to 13 gigawatts in 2015, twice as much as newly installed fossil fuel and nuclear capacity combined. WindEurope claims that all European wind turbines taken together can now generate enough electricity for87m households.

This is not only a result of government subsidies and incentives, but also of dramatically reduced production costs for wind energy. The price for a megawatt hour is now between €50 and €96 for onshore wind and €73 to €140 for offshore wind, compared to around €65 to €70 for gas and coal. Electricity generated from onshore windfarms is now the cheapest among newly installed power sources in the UK and many other countries. If environmental costs are considered, the picture looks even more favorable for wind power.

Germany now meets one-third of its electricity demand with renewable energy, Denmark 42%, and Scotland as much as 58%. On some sunny or very windy days, renewables can now fully supply the electricity demand in these countries.

The picture isn’t entirely rosy, though. The European wind industry says that grid and storage infrastructure hasn’t expanded fast enough to soak up surplus wind energy, and that the fossil fuel and nuclear industries are trying to sabotage what is called Energiewende, Germany’s transition from coal andnuclear power to renewable energy. The wind energy boom, with its recurrent surges of surplus energy, has led to a dramatic decline in electricity prices in spot market trading at the European Electricity Exchange, with the price per kilowatt hour falling by as much as 50% in the last five years. With preferential treatment from EU governments, wind energy is now outcompeting coal-fired power plants, posing major challenges for utilities heavily invested in fossil fuels.

Out in the Irish Sea, however, Dong Energy’s Sykes shows no mercy for the fossil fuel industry. “Wind power on land is becoming the cheapest form of newly installed electricity capacity,” he says. “And even out here at sea, we can’t say anymore that there are technical hurdles.”………

To long-term players in the field such as Henrik Stiesdal, a Danish wind power pioneer and former chief technology officer of Siemens Wind power, the situation is ironic: “While there were warnings in the past that wind energy would never be able to meet demands, politicians are now confronted with its abundance,” he said. Stiesdal sees storage technologies and better grid integration as opportunities, rather than problems – wind energy’s “golden bullets”.

“Once these problems are solved, wind will be able to cover the greatest part of the world’s electricity needs,” he says. The WindEurope business group says it could easily double the amount of wind electricity for EU consumption to almost 30% by the year 2030. The group argues that the recent ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change means the EU will have to pursue a more ambitious energy transition.

A visit to Dong Energy’s Burbo Bank project demonstrates the rapid progress the industry has made from its modest beginnings in the 1990s. It will take engineers and workers just a few months to assemble a facility that will provide electricity for a quarter-million households.

Like Stiesdal, Dong’s Sykes sees a bright future for offshore wind. He expects no impact from the UK’s Brexit and notes that the Burbo Bank extension is co-owned by an unlikely player in power production: the parent company of Lego, the toymaker. “Offshore is a reliable and increasingly cheap source of energy, with no lasting harm to the environment,” Sykes says. “It will soon be simply unbeatable.” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/20/europes-offshore-wind-industry-booming-as-costs-fall

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October 20, 2016 - Posted by | EUROPE, renewable

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