The EU's installed wind power capacity has crossed the 100-gigawatt threshold according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). In addition, a gigawatt of offshore wind was added.
Ormonde offshore wind farm: crew transfer vessel with Cumbrian landscape in background.
Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that Europe had reached 1 gigawatt of offshore wind, but it has closer to 4.3 gigawatts offshore. The correct figure for 1 GW concerns new installations in 2012.
While the news sounds good, the market itself has slowed down considerably, with only 6 GW having been newly installed in the first three quarters of 2012 – compared to 9.6 GW in the first three quarters of 2011. 90% of that amount has been installed over the past 13 years, with half of it being less than 6 years old. But 2009 was the peak year, with growth exceeding 10 GW. Since then, the market has remained below 10 GW.
EWEA estimates that 100 GW of wind power is enough to replace 39 nuclear plants or, as EWEA head Christian Kjaer puts it, “We would need to burn 72 million tons of coal in coal plants to get that much electricity. If you had to transport all of that coal by train, you would need 750,000 wagons, and the train would be 11,500 km long – enough to reach from Brussels to Buenos Aires.”
Increasingly, offshore wind is making up a bigger share of the pie. At the end of September, the first turbine from Denmark's Anholt project in the Baltic, where 111 Siemens turbines will eventually be installed with a total capacity of 400 MW, was connected to the grid. In addition, Renewable UK announced last week that 3 new wind farms with a total capacity of 967 MW were going into operation. The largest is Greater Gabbard, which has a capacity of 500 MW. On September 27, Sheringham Shoal was completely hooked up with 317 MW. Finally, Vattenfall's Ormonde wind farm with 150 MW was hooked up in mid-September.
In Germany, new turbines were also added to the Bard Offshore 1 offshore wind farm, where construction will continue until the end of 2013. Near the mouth of the Thames, London Array now has more than 100 wind turbines with a total capacity of 360 MW, the first of which have been connected to the grid; the first construction phase will bring the project above 600 MW.
Onshore, some wind farms of similar size have also been recently completed or are currently under construction: Romania's Fantanele and Gogealac along with the UK's Whitelee and Clyde, which have a capacity of 600, 539 and 360 MW. (Tilman Weber / Craig Morris)