Offshore Market Is 'Key to Wind Power Success

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Byline: By Steve Pain Deputy Business Editor

The wind power industry has high hopes that offshore wind farms can help maintain double-digit-growth rates in a sector boosted by high oil prices.

"The future of wind energy depends on the offshore market," Arthourus Zervos, president of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), told an offshore wind power conference yesterday.

The global wind power market is seen growing by around 15 per cent annually in the coming years.

Governments around the world are increasingly relying on an expansion of wind energy, especially offshore, to curb greenhouse gas emissions, blamed by scientists for causing global warming.

Official targets for boosting renewable power generation and high oil prices also gave leading wind turbine makers, Denmark's Vestas and Germany's Siemens Wind Power, reasons for optimism.

"There is no doubt that the development in fossil fuel prices is increasing interest in wind power," said Vestas chief executive Ditlev Engel. "There is a tremendous potential but it's also very challenging."

The main challenges to offshore wind power include high investment costs compared to onshore wind farms and a reliable technology as windmills and electrical systems at sea are exposed to tough weather conditions.

Industry analysts estimate offshore costs are four to six times higher than onshore costs.

German engineering conglomerate Siemens entered the wind power industry a year ago, when it acquired Danish private-owned Bonus Energy.

"Offshore wind power is certainly taking off. A large scale kick-in is likely by 2008," Siemens Wind Power chief executive Andreas Nauen told the conference.

He expects offshore to account for up to 12 per cent of total new wind power installations in 2010, versus around one per cent currently. …