The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and the Community of European Shipyards’ Association (CESA) are calling on the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support the building of new ships to serve the expanding offshore wind energy market over the coming years.
EWEA and CESA want the European Commission to develop programmes and funding mechanisms, and for the European Investment Bank to take the necessary measures to support the risk related to the necessary significant investments, to ensure that a sufficient number of installation vessels are available to the offshore wind industry.
They also argue that the offshore wind-power industry should be identified as a key industry in the EU’s 2020 strategy for smart, green growth.
Investments in new ships totalling more than £2billion (2.4billion euros) are needed for the predicted growth of offshore wind. By 2020, the installation of thousands of offshore wind turbines is in danger of stalling without sufficient tonnage of competent ships.
However, it is hard to see whether any UK yard is capable of cashing in on this prospective boom. Britain’s merchant shipbuilding capability has been decimated over the past 60 years by a lethal mix of bad management, dismal policy at government level, trade unions bent on self-destruction and foreign competition.
Yet Europe’s first ever purpose-designed and built windfarm construction vessel was ordered by a British company. However, the Resolution was built in China and Mayflower went bust.
Eddie O’Connor, founder and CEO of Mainstream Renewables and EWEA secretary, said: “From 2020, we will see 40,000 megawatts per year built offshore. This will require 10-12 new heavy-lift vessels, other vessels for transporting foundations, towers, nacelles and blading systems. New ports will have to be built across Europe.”
Reinhard Luken, secretary-general of CESA, said European shipyards provided the necessary engineering power to develop innovative solutions for dedicated offshore equipment.
“Together, European industry holds unique capabilities to drive fast growth towards the green revolution of sustainable energy production,” said Luken.
According to EWEA, offshore wind power provides the answer to Europe’s energy and climate dilemma – “exploiting an abundant energy resource which does not emit greenhouse gases, reduces dependence on increasingly costly fuel imports, which creates thousands of jobs and provides large quantities of indigenous, affordable electricity.
The offshore wind industry apparently already employs 19,000 people, a level which is expected to rise to 156,000 jobs across the EU by 2020.
The call for a structured approach to building a fleet of ships to take on the challenge was made at a meeting in Brussels chaired by O’Connor and Luken, bringing together the wind industry, the European shipyard industry and officials from the European Commission and European Investment Bank.
It will be followed by further collaboration between the two associations and their members in order to support the European institutions in taking appropriate action.