COCONET - ASSESSING OFFSHORE WINDFARM DEVELOPMENT IN THE MEDITERRANEAN AND BLACK SEAS
With more than 80 countries developing wind energy, there is enough installed wind power capacity worldwide to meet the residential needs of 380 million people at the European level of consumption. The vast majority of wind turbines operating today are on land, but offshore wind development is ramping up.
Since 2006, offshore wind generating capacity has grown fivefold, now totalling more than 4,000 megawatts. Currently all operational offshore windfarms are in European waters with the exception of the first Chinese offshore windfarm at Shangai (102 MW capacity). More than half of the total European offshore capacity belongs to the United Kingdom.
The European Wind Energy Association expects this trend will continue, with Europe's offshore generating capacity reaching 150,000 megawatts by 2030. This amounts to 14 % of the projected EU electricity demand and will avoid emitting 315 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
There are many reasons why offshore windfarms have been successful:
- they can harness more frequent and powerful winds than are available to land-based installations;
- they have less impact on landscapes and so more acceptable to local communities as new technologies mean that offshore turbines can be erected far out to sea where they have little visual effect and undersea cables can carry the electricity to land.
At a time when Europe is at a major crossroads for its energy future, in line with the 2009/28/EC Renewable Directive, offshore wind may provide a powerful domestic answer to Europe's energy supply and climate dilemma with this clean and abundant energy source.
In addition, from an economic growth perspective, the development of offshore wind energy globally and Europe's first mover advantage creates significant opportunities for European companies to expand their activities towards more international waters.
At present, the North Sea, Baltic Sea and to a lesser extent the Atlantic Ocean are the only European seas where offshore windfarms are operating or under construction. Some important offshore windfarm projects are planned in the Mediterranean with only a tiny proportion of them having reached consent stage. The Black Sea is even further away from offshore windfarm development.
However, whereas much research has been done in northern seas to ensure that OWFs have minimal environmental impact, especially for vulnerable marine species and habitats in the expanding NATURA 2000 network, virtually nothing has been done in this regard in the Mediterranean or Black Seas. The Coconet project will play a significant part in filling this gap.
NatureBureau April 2012