There’s no denying the fact that climate change is a significant threat and that more needs to be done to help curb our emissions and improve the chances of at least slowing the progress of rising global temperatures.
With this as a backdrop, along with the falling cost of renewable energy generation, the French offshore wind industry association SER has called on the French government to set more ambitious targets for the country’s wind power sector.
Renews.biz revealed that the organisation wants the targets set by the nation for the next ten years to be increased significantly, to more than 7GW. The association argued that the French government isn’t going far enough in its efforts to boost renewables in its draft energy roadmap, also known as the PPE, and should hold more than 2.2GW of additional tenders.
Currently, France intends to tender up to 6GW of offshore wind and floating wind capacity between 2019 and 2028, OffshoreWind.biz reported.
The news provider also noted that, over the next five years, the bidding rhythm within the tender schedule is “well below the expectations of the industry and coastal regions”, French Energie Eolienne (FEE) commented.
The FEE is arguing that the current proposals are “far too weak to trigger a dynamic offshore wind sector that would bring jobs and local economic benefits”.
It’s important to consider the importance and future role of offshore wind in the energy mix now, to ensure that the sector is able to continue to grow and that the costs of producing this kind of energy continue to fall.
OffshoreWind.biz shared the comments of SER president Jean-Louis Bal, who explained the capacity allocated from 2022 will only come into effect in the energy mix between 2029 and 2035.
“The development of offshore wind must therefore be considered in the first period of the PPE to plan the increase in the production of renewable electricity necessary to raise the share of renewable electricity to 40 per cent in 2030 and beyond 2035,” he asserted.
Growing this sector in France will mean there’s a greater demand for accredited renewable and offshore wind courses as well as offshore emergency preparedness & response training.
France isn’t the only country that is likely to expand its use of renewables in the future. The UK has already seen its offshore wind industry grow substantially, and the nation boasts some of the world’s largest offshore wind farms and advanced renewable supply chain clusters.
One of the latest signs that the sector is thriving in the UK came when Vattenfall, which operates the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), applied to the Scottish government to extend its lease on the site from 22 to 25 years.
This would result in the turbines based in the North Sea off the coast of Aberdeen could continue to provide power for an additional three years. Project Director Kevin Metcalf explained there are a number of advantages to extending the life of the wind farm.
“If approved, the longer operating life of the wind farm will deliver a boost to local jobs, businesses and the generation of more fossil-free electricity,” he told the BBC.
The Vattenfall wind farm only began operating last July, so the three-year extension would mean its operating life will allow it to provide power until 2043.
Aside from the arguments of tackling climate change, there is a growing amount of evidence that economically wind power and other renewable energy generation should be seriously considered.
An article for Forbes recently pointed out that offshore wind is continuing to be more competitive than coal and gas when it comes to generating costs, which means there’s likely to be a greater drive for renewables around the world simply because they offer the cheapest form of new bulk energy generation.
Writing for the news provider, Mike Scott explained that the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) has fallen significantly not only for offshore wind but also onshore wind and solar PV in the past nine years.
Solar PV has seen its LCOE fall the furthest, dropping by 84 per cent. Offshore wind has experienced a fall of 56 per cent, while onshore wind has seen costs decline by 49 per cent, all since 2010.
While this is great news for renewables in general, it isn’t the only piece of the puzzle that’s needed to drive uptake. One of the issues for renewable energy generators has long been energy storage.
But now there might be a more affordable solution around the corner. Lithium-ion batteries, which are important for energy storage, have seen their costs drop significantly, posting a decline of more than 35 per cent in the past year alone, according to research from Bloomberg NEF (BNEF).
This is important for the likes of wind power, which is intermittent in terms of the energy it generates. Being able to store that energy during periods where it’s windier and more is, therefore, being produced is essential to allow the wind farms to provide power when it’s not windy.
Head of Energy Economics at BNEF Elena Giannakopoulou commented: “Looking back over this decade, there have been staggering improvements in the cost-competitiveness of these low-carbon options, thanks to technology innovation, economies of scale, stiff price competition and manufacturing experience.”
By being able to avoid an interrupted supply of energy, the likes of wind and solar power will be able to more effectively compete with coal, gas and nuclear power stations.
The news provider also noted that where offshore wind is concerned, the cost of generating electricity has fallen much more quickly than anticipated due to advances in technology. It also pointed out that Europe is set to see the world’s first subsidy-free wind farm.
This particular operation will be run by Vattenfall in the Hollandse Kust Zuid 1 & 2 scheme and will utilise 10MW turbines from Siemens Gamesa.
Germany is another country that’s seriously investing in its wind infrastructure, with Clean Energy Wire recently highlighting the opening of the nation’s latest offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea.
This particular project is going live a decade after Germany’s first offshore wind farm came online. 60 turbines have been set up in the new wind farm, which will be run by Eon and Equinor and that has the capacity to provide energy to 400,000 homes in Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel commented: “This shows that renewables have left their niche and now take centre stage in our energy supply.”
However, she stressed that the fight to reduce emissions doesn’t lie solely with the energy industry. The transport and heating sectors will also need to change the way they do things, and in Germany such changes are “also forthcoming, although progress there was much more difficult to achieve”, Ms. Merkel added.
Across the EU as a whole, renewables are making up a growing proportion of its energy generation. Earlier this year, a report from think tank Sandbag found that renewable energy accounted for almost one-third (32.3 per cent) of the energy generated in the EU in 2018.
Coal generation in the EU, meanwhile, fell six per cent year-on-year and the use of this fossil fuel has declined by 30 per cent across the bloc since 2012.
New offshore wind projects, like the one established in the North Sea, will only help bolster that figure as we move forward. And with consumers becoming ever aware of the need to act on climate change, their demand for more renewable energy in the mix could be yet more of a push for the big energy companies to look at alternative solutions to gas and coal.