This report covers the main issues, challenges and problems that face Europe’s wind power operators as wind farms come to the end of their operating lifespan.
In 2017, Europe’s wind-power generating capacity of 169 GW, ranked second after gas and ahead of coal. Whilst onshore installations dominate, there are now over 4,000 offshore wind turbines producing 15.8 GW of grid-connected output. The wind-power sector currently has an annual turnover of €72bn and employs around 330,000.[i] Wind energy accounted for half of all energy investments in Europe during 2017.
Between 2017 and 2020 an additional 50 GW of wind-power is forecast to be installed across Europe. And the increasing importance of offshore wind farms can be seen in the fact that 53 are scheduled to come online between 2016 and 2022. By 2030 the EU is expected to have installed 323 GW of wind energy, dominated by onshore turbines generating 253GW and offshore installations generating 70 GW.[ii]
Germany, Spain, the UK, Italy and France are Europe’s leading wind-power producers. The industry is oligopolistic, with the leading five wind-power developers accounting for 54 percent of all new installed capacity during 2017. EU energy policy and UN climate accords together with generous government subsidies, feed-in-tariffs and priority access to the grid, have underpinned the emergence and take-off of the wind sector.
Compared with the oil industry, wind generating ownership is short-term since the operating life of a wind farm is just 20 years. Ownership is diverse ranging from the large European utilities and late entrant big oil companies who are responsible for large-scale grid connected plants at one end and the small-scale plants, whose owners include local towns and cities, local co-operatives of farmers and individuals, energy intensive companies such as car manufacturers, retailers and IT companies. Wind-farms are often in the hands of multiple owners and ownership is not static as portions are often farmed out during the lifetime of the project.
For the rest of this report see Europe wind power decommissioning report