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Hot Topic: Is the answer for Europe blowing in the wind?

Friday, February 17, 2017

#Europe #The Netherlands #Parliament #2023 #TenneT #Baltics #Estonia #Offshore #Wind #Future #Investments


The Dutch House of Representatives approved a motion asking the government to look at additional options to include more offshore wind farm zones to the existing Dutch Energy Agreement (Energieakkoord) 2013-2023 (see news of 12 December 2016: ‘Netherlands appoints new zones for offshore wind projects’). The decision was made amid a decline in gas in the fields near Groningen, growing public discontent due to environmental concerns and seismic activity caused by gas extraction techniques used at the biggest European gas fields. To meet their ambitious climate and energy targets, the Netherlands must step up the game when it comes to ingenuity and innovative approaches for RES generation, transmission, and infrastructural developments.

The motion, submitted by Jan Vos and Liesbeth van Tongeren from the PvdA (Labour Party) and GroenLinks (Green Left) respectively, aims at making offshore wind one of the leading forces behind the Dutch energy policy. According to the MEPs, an additional offshore wind farm could be developed by 2023, aiding the Dutch climate and energy ambitions. The approved motion outlines the far offshore wind area of IJmuiden Ver, North of the Netherlands, as a possible additional zone for wind energy projects with a potential for stable generation of more than 6 GW.

According to the Dutch transmission operator, TenneT, the areas close to the shore that are currently being utilised for offshore wind projects will be insufficient in providing enough volumes of offshore wind energy as required by the growing market. Therefore, possibilities far out at sea are becoming more viable from economic and technical perspectives, even though such projects would have a higher price tag. In early February, TenneT began a market consultation on HVDC technology for grid connection concept IJmuiden Ver. The main aim of the consultation is to find out the most cost-efficient and innovative way to connect the wind energy that will be generated in the IJmuiden Ver area to the national grid.

Additionally, a possible solution proposed by the Dutch TSO and central to its plans and vision is to gradually build an island to which a number of wind farms will be connected via AC cables. The island would act as a multi-functional base for infrastructure builders and maintenance ships, as well as for storage and energy transformation. From the island, the generated electricity would be transported via HVDC cables to the North Sea countries (i.e., the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway and the UK). Thus, the cables would also act as interconnections between the States, thereby creating an international electricity highway for power trade.

In another part of Europe, stimulated by the falling prices of offshore wind and the drive towards energy independence, the Baltic States are also gearing up for a number of enormous offshore wind endeavours, which have the potential to overhaul their system. During the 2017 Windforce Baltic Sea Conference in Tallinn, the Baltic countries reasserted that they will be able to expand and meet energy targets by investing in offshore wind projects. For now, with its 1,5 GW of offshore capacity at the end of 2016, the Baltic Sea is still overshadowed by the immense size of the planned and constructed projects in the North Sea.

However, this trend is starting to change, albeit slowly, with projects such as Kriegers Flak, which had a below €50/MWh winning bid price (see news of 23 December 2016: ‘Vattenfall signs concession for 950 MW of Danish offshore wind’). Furthermore, at the forgoing conference, the Estonian Prime Minister expressed her optimism in utilising a so-called “flexible cooperation mechanism” included in the EU RES Directive. In line with this, an EU Member State with more resources will invest into a 1 GW offshore project near the Estonian coast and count the capacity towards its own 2020 EU RES target. This type of cooperation could potentially create a win-win situation for both parties.

The trends in Europe are changing and, as a recent Report by WindEurope shows, the potential for offshore wind energy is huge with falling prices and companies moving towards developing larger scale projects. However, the challenges are multiple and multifaceted with such enormous projects. A low cost per kWh is the basis and possible stimulus for additional offshore wind, but to take the whole wind energy picture into consideration, important issues such as insufficient grid infrastructure and storage opportunities, reliability of some of the proposed parks, and various maintenance challenges should not be overlooked.


Offshore Wind



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