Sweden unveils three new offshore wind zones

Government presents initial maritime plan for offshore wind, but industry calls for higher targets taking into account floating technology

Sweden currently has 191MW of operational offshore wind capacity, including Vattenfall's 110MW Lillgrund project

Sweden has presented plans to eventually build nearly enough offshore wind capacity to meet the country’s current electricity consumption.

However, the national wind energy association has called for the target to be higher. The current plans also fail to take into consideration the potential for floating offshore wind, the association pointed out.

The government unveiled zones in the Gulf of Bothnia (to the north-east of the country), Baltic Sea (to the south-east) and North Sea (to the west) to accommodate wind farms capable of producing an initial 20-30TWh per year.

It then aims to expand capacity so that its offshore wind fleet could produce 120TWh annually. It has not stated what offshore wind capacity these electricity production figures relate to, or when these targets should be met. But Svensk Vindenergi — the Swedish wind energy association — believes this 120TWh target should translate to about 27GW of offshore wind capacity.

Sweden's current electricity consumption is about 140TWh a year, according to the government. This is expected to increase sharply in the coming years, though, as industry and transport are electrified and fossil fuels are phased out.

It is also as yet unclear how projects’ developers would be selected, and when the government will clarify how and when this will happen. 

The Swedish Energy Agency and Swedish Maritime Administration are due to supply reports on suitable areas to accommodate the expansion to 120TWh/year by March 2023 and December 2024 respectively.

Sweden's plans also call for an investigation into how municipalities can benefit from offshore wind. They also provide other authorities such as state-owned grid operator Svenska kraftnät and the Swedish armed forces for offshore wind. Previously, developers have abandoned plans for offshore wind farms due to objections from the country's military.

Lina Kinning, who is responsible for offshore wind power at Svensk Vindenergi, welcomed the release of the plan, but said the association had expected it to be more ambitious. 

“The [fight against] climate change means that the need for electricity is increasing rapidly. The proposed offshore plans do not provide space for all the electricity production required to meet that need,” she said.

Sweden should also plan to accommodate floating offshore wind in future years as the sector develops, Kinning added.

“It is important to take into account the technological development of wind power in the continued work of revising the maritime plans The plans have assumed that it is only possible to build offshore wind power down to a depth of 40 metres, but today it is possible to build bottom-fixed wind turbines down to a depth of at least 60-70 metres. In addition, it has become a large market for floating wind turbines globally, and then the depth is not limiting in the same way,” she said.

Sweden currently has 191MW of operational offshore wind capacity, according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly. 

Developers including Ørsted and OX2 have recently unveiled plans for large offshore wind projects off Sweden.