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EWEA's Opinion

EWEA's opinion

07.08.2009

Offshore wind power continues to attract increased investment interest

While the global recession continues to play havoc with most national economies, it is worth noting that the fledgling offshore wind power industry has recently been the recipient of some exceptionally good news.

One example of this welcome trend occurred when the European Investment Bank (EIB) granted €300 million to finance the Belwind project located at Bligh Bank in the North Sea, 46 km off the coast of Belgium.

It is the first time, according to the EIB website, that the bank will assume project finance risk for an offshore wind farm.

EIB, the long-term lending arm of the European Union, says the financing of Belwind, which will be Belgium’s largest offshore wind farm, will cover the construction and operation of the first phase of the 330 MW offshore wind farm.

Owned by a consortium of Belgian and Dutch investors, Belwind will contribute to achieving the Belgian government’s target of a 6% share of electricity generated from renewable energy sources. The construction of the wind farm has already started and is expected to be completed by early 2011, for a total investment cost of €614 million (including financing costs).

Financing for the Belwind offshore wind farm project is an endorsement of recent EIB activity. In 2008, the bank devoted €2.2 billion for the development of renewable energy projects. Of the renewable energy segments financed by the EIB, wind and solar accounted for 62% of loans.

Meanwhile, half a world away, Hong Kong’s environmental regulatory agency has just approved a US $900 million offshore wind farm which, according to Recharge, would become the first major offshore wind farm built in Asia.

The project includes the installation of 67 wind turbines less than 10 km off Hong Kong’s Clearwater Bay.

Recharge says the project, which is being developed by Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings and UK based Wind Prospect, would produce an estimated 1% of Hong Kong’s needed electricity.

Offshore wind power is also creating positive headlines in the United States. According to Wind Energy Today, Texas might beat out a number of east coast states in the race to become home to the first offshore wind farm in the US.

Wind Energy Today says the Texas General Land Office has awarded leases to energy startup Baryonyx to build three new wind farms, two of which are offshore.

The company said that combined, the three sites – two in the Gulf of Mexico and one on land in the Texas panhandle – could become home to a fleet of giant 5 MW turbines capable of generating up to 3GW of power.

If completed, the offshore farms would each generate 750 MW of power --
enough to supply electricity to 200,000 homes per farm.

All this good news about offshore wind power doesn’t mean, of course, that the sector will not have to overcome a variety of hurdles as it scales up in the next two decades.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) believes it does mean, however, that increasingly policy makers and investors are realising that the many benefits of offshore wind are just too great to ignore. This is a positive sign for the industry. Indeed, it is essential that European policy makers act now to ensure that Europe maintains its technology and installation leadership in the offshore wind sector.

The amazing potential of Europe’s largest domestic energy resource, which will be paraded enthusiastically at EWEA’s offshore wind conference in Stockholm in September, is destined to help power a much-needed global green energy revolution.

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