The offshore wind industry (OWI) is at a turning point, with the first large scale offshore wind farms (OWF) being built over the next years. It should no longer be regarded as “tomorrow’s potential”, but as a developing industry in its own right.
The capacity and efficiency of OWI has increased considerably. With this technological progress, offshore wind energy (OWE) is considered to become a competitive and reliable energy source over the next decade. Substantial investments by global players like Vestas, Siemens, Shell, E.On or General Electric, confirm the economic potential of OWE.
However, the industry still has to overcome substantial challenges to meet the ambitious targets for offshore wind set at EU and national level. The participating POWER cluster regions from Germany, The United Kingdom, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden are the very centre of the world’s OWI. It was here that the first OWF were built and it is here, the industry forecasts the strongest growth in the future. There is currently over 1,1 GW of offshore wind capacity installed worldwide across 26 OWF in seven countries. More than 90% of all current capacity is generated in the POWER cluster countries.
In 2003, when the POWER project was initiated, only a few OWF had been built, many of them small, trial scale. Large scale OWF were still far away from realisation. Based on experiences of the early OWF, technology has developed in 2008 with new 5-6MW turbines entering production and the planning of large scale OWF being well advanced.
Advantages of the Partnership/ Working Together
The regions have varied settings, due to their diverse domestic wind markets, and are characterized by individual strengths and weaknesses. Whilst no individual region can demonstrate excellence in every aspect of the supply chain, together, the individual regions have full capability throughout all identifiable supply chain activities.
There is a clear benefit of establishing a real offshore wind POWER cluster with close relationships between the companies in the different regions, both for the economic regeneration of the involved regions, and for confirming the North Sea Region (NSR) as the global engine for the OWI.
The consortium seeks to promote the coherence of policies and is aiming to establish standard-setting approaches, as the regions have common concerns and shared interests that can be tackled by joint solutions.
Turning Challenges to Strengths
While the different regions are characterised by complementary strengths and weaknesses, severe challenges and bottle-necks marks all regions. These challenges include the need to drive down costs in offshore wind, to take better advantage of the complementarities of offshore wind, oil and gas industries, integrating offshore wind into a wider marine supply chain, grid connection issues, bottlenecks of the supply chain and evolving shortages in skilled workforce for this specialist sector.
The partnership wants to tackle the crucial challenges (skilled work force, supply chain enhancement, public acceptance and transnational complementarities) by cooperating beyond borderlines and sector barriers. The project seeks to develop cooperation between individual countries in order to take advantage of future growth in offshore wind and identifying future markets. It will strengthen the position of the NSR as a sector leader not just in Europe but globally, based on detailed analysis of the regional and transnational supply chain.
POWER CLUSTER will support the NSR to maintain its leadership and offshore wind to play an even more significant role in meeting EU’s energy needs and targets in the coming decades.