It’s safe to say Europe has a well-developed offshore wind market. Since installing the first offshore wind farm in 1991, about 55 European countries have invested in this sector. Developers there have also learned lessons in the areas of transmission and grid connection. With new markets emerging, international developers and investors look beyond Europe for offshore wind-energy growth to make good use of their transferable market knowledge – a key to commercial expansion and success.
According to a recent report, Tackling Transmission, by U.K.-based consulting firm, A Word About Wind, there are limited opportunities to invest directly in transmission networks in newer markets, such as North America and Asia. However, experienced European firms can offer a wealth of accumulated expertise, knowledge, and valuable intellectual property to U.S. grid developers and operators keen to avoid the early mistakes seen in Europe.
The report discusses the importance of consolidating existing offshore transmission-network data. It examines the latest thinking from key offshore investors, authorities, and industry experts. What’s more, the report incorporates a series of industry analysis and third-party opinion pieces, and highlights the importance of an extensive base of transmission knowledge as a valuable export commodity for Europe.
In developing markets, domestic investors are better positioned to snatch up emerging grid-connection projects than international prospects. For example, Google has committed to developing a $5 billion transmission link to support installation of wind farms off the east coast of the U.S.
European investors may struggle to carve out a chunk of the international market, but developers will find their intellectual property in high demand.
The construction of offshore transmission lines is a complex and timely process, so newer developers may rely on Europe’s offshore transmission-owner regime to address grid-connection concerns throughout the complex process.
Developing transmission networks has proven a challenge for on and offshore wind. “There is no point generating electricity at offshore wind farms if you can’t get power into the onshore grid,” says Richard Heap, author of the report. “If we fail to manage transmission networks effectively, the global offshore-wind sector will remain in its infancy.”
For firms experienced in offshore wind, such as those in the U.K., Germany, and Denmark, sharing information presents a major opportunity, adds Heap. A European investment in the transmission infrastructure of an emerging market seems unlikely, at least in the short-term. The ability, however, to sell knowledge gives European pioneers a chance to help sustain the global offshore industry. WPE
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