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Monday Comment: Scaling down ambition in offshore

Will this be a tricky time for offshore? A quick glance at Windpower Offshore news over the last couple of weeks show the sector is progressing well.

Dogger Bank in the middle of the North Sea
Dogger Bank in the middle of the North Sea

A quick glance at Windpower Offshore news over the last couple of weeks show the sector is progressing well. The first power is coming from Humber Gateway while the UK government has approved "a massive" 2.5GW of the 9GW that was envisaged for Dogger Bank.

Obviously it was the latter than garnered the most attention in the more generalist renewables media. But there is a key difference in these two stories.

Although at 219MW Humber Gateway is much smaller than the 7.2GW Dogger Bank, it has an immense advantage in that it represents actual capacity in the ground. All bought and paid for, to use a more common analysis.

From an editorial standpoint, Dogger Bank has provided a juicy headline with its size and scope. But with the continual downgrades and cancellations to Round 3 projects, one has to ask how tangible this is. Maybe the oncoming completion of a smaller offshore project is more important.

That's not to say that Dogger Bank, out in the middle of the North Sea, will remain a pipe dream. But talk — and construction permits — are cheap when it comes to offshore. The real decision-making lies with the utilities, developers and banks.

Back in 2010 the oft-quoted 33GW that was to make up the UK Round 3 offshore projects was supposed to be moving along by now. And it was predicted that the projects would deliver 25% of the UK's total electricity production. The 33GW line has long been dropped and a number of the projects — Celtic Array and Atlantic Array included — have been cancelled. And the 9GW planned Dogger Bank has shrunk.

Viewing habits

On a different note. In terms of figures, last week's top three most read stories on Windpower Monthly concerned the development of wind in the Middle East. The most read was Monday's Question of the Week concerning Saudi Arabia's decision to cancel its KACare initiative to shift the country's electricity production to solar and wind.

There's nothing much to add to the interesting comments in the piece. Although it is worth reiterating GWEC chief executive Steve Sawyer's point that KACare was reliant on King Abdullah's support. It arguably lost its place with his passing.

It does not have to be the death of a king that halts renewable energy plans. Wind projects are long-term aims and elections and new political regimes can also cause instability. One wonders whether an opportunity could be lost. In many cases the drawback in developing wind is the costs. Yet here is a country that appears to have plenty of money.

On a more optimistic note, Turkey seems to be going the opposite way. The country is aiming to bring its installed wind capacity to 20GW by 2023, an increase of around 430% on its end-2014 capacity of 3.763GW. But if it looks like a similar target to Round 3, it is worth bearing in mind Turkey raised its wind capacity by 368% between 2013-14.

So it's obviously prepared to back talk with action.

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