Infrastructure plan for offshore wind -- First European report

A first report from the EU coordinator for the integration of offshore wind power into the power systems of Europe is described as "a useful contribution" to policy development by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). The coordinator, Georg Wilhelm Adamowitsch, is one of four high-level officials given the job of speeding up European energy interconnection projects. Although EWEA offers faint praise for Adamowitsch's first effort, the association remains concerned that progress on removing barriers to connecting offshore wind to transmission lines on land is not proceeding fast enough.

Adamowitsch says his first year was mainly spent on information gathering and establishing contacts with member states. He finds that 50 GW would be a realistic target for offshore wind capacity in Europe, with long term potential for 100-150 GW. But if the current fragmented and uncoordinated national approaches continue, offshore capacity could be limited to 20 GW, he warns.

An offshore grid should not only enable offshore wind farms to connect to the onshore transmission network, but should also provide capacity for cross-border trading of all forms of power generation within Europe, he says. The grid should be planned and developed in modular form, with a first step to connect Norway to continental European markets.

Adamowitsch proposes developing a "best practice case" around a series of three offshore projects known as Kriegers Flak being developed in Danish, German and Swedish waters in the Baltic Sea (Windpower Monthly, October 2006). Production would be integrated into the power systems of all three countries, which each have their own different support and regulatory regimes.

In the coming year, Adamowitsch intends to clarify the role of electricity market regulators to enable timely implementation of offshore grid development and onshore grid extensions. Regulators should take account of environmental concerns alongside their economic responsibilities, he says. Also, EU environmental law may need to be revised to enable offshore wind development and allow the EU to meet its sustainability goals, he says.

EWEA agrees with most of the co-ordinator's findings. But it comments that Adamowitsch is yet to address a key issue: how to catalyse interest in building a Europe-wide offshore grid and onshore transmission reinforcements while improving competition in the internal electricity market. An investment framework for grids is needed to provide an incentive for Europe's transmission companies to invest in the required infrastructure, says EWEA.