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Europe’s Growing Offshore Wind Capacity

Europe’s fledgling offshore wind industry will grow this year by 1,000 megawatts, or 75 percent, the European Wind Energy Association forecast in a report Monday.

That compares with a 54 percent growth rate in 2009, when nearly 2,000 turbines and 373 megawatts of offshore wind were installed.

“This is an incredibly good result considering the continued difficulties of obtaining project finance for large projects”, Christian Kjaer, the group’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The association said $366 million in European stimulus funds directed at offshore wind helped lift the sector.

Europe now has 2,056 megawatts of offshore wind capacity under operation with 828 turbines in nine countries, the association said.

In Europe, 17 offshore wind farms are under construction with a total of about 3,500 megawatts. Of those, nearly half are in British waters. Another 52 offshore wind farms in European waters with more than 16,000 megawatts have received regulatory permission, with about half of those planned in Germany.

The association pointed out that offshore installations were growing in size and technical complexity. The average wind farm size in 2009 grew by nearly 10 percent to 72.1 megawatts. The average water depth of offshore farms was nearly 40 feet, deeper than ever, but less than the average 71 feet for farms under construction.

The distance of offshore farms from shore installed in 2009 was nine miles, greater than before, but less than the 19-mile average for farms now being built.

The association said that more than 100 gigawatts of offshore projects were at various stages of planning and could potentially provide enough power to meet 10 percent of European electricity demand.

That includes Britain’s awarding last week of the developmental rights to build about 6,000 wind turbines with an overall investment of at least $120 billion in the next decade or so.