Europe Faces Offshore Wind Tower Shortage as Demand Outstrips Manufacturing Capacity
Posted 05/07/2023 12:07
Europe's ambitious plans for offshore wind development as part of its energy transition could face a significant hurdle in the coming years. According to energy research firm Rystad Energy, there is a looming shortage in the manufacturing capacity of offshore wind turbine towers, with demand set to surpass supply by 2028. This raises concerns about Europe's ability to meet its renewable energy targets and calls for urgent action to ramp up production capabilities.
Rystad Energy's analysis of offshore wind capacity outlook reveals that manufacturing capacity for wind towers is currently on track to keep up with demand until 2028. However, in 2029, there will be a turning point where demand is projected to exceed manufacturing capacity by a significant margin. By 2029, the demand for steel used in offshore wind towers will reach over 1.7 million tonnes, while the manufacturing capacity is expected to be around 1.3 million tonnes, leaving a supply gap of approximately 30%.
To avoid a potential supply crisis, manufacturers in Europe need to initiate expansion plans within the next two years. Constructing new facilities can take between two and three years, so immediate action is required. These forecasts assume that there won't be a major steel shortage, allowing manufacturers to operate at full capacity. However, if a steel shortage were to occur, the supply issue could arise even earlier than anticipated.
Alexander Flotre, Vice President at Rystad Energy, emphasizes the need for timely action, stating that turbine sizes are growing as offshore wind gains importance in the global power grid. The surge in tower demand presents a golden opportunity for manufacturers to capitalize on increased market needs. However, new production capacity must be added promptly to avoid supply constraints.
European producers should not encounter significant obstacles in expanding their manufacturing capabilities for wind towers. Tower production primarily relies on steel and does not require highly complex or specialized machinery.
As Europe moves forward with offshore wind projects, the average turbine capacity is expected to exceed 10 megawatts (MW) by 2023. Rystad Energy estimates that between 2029 and 2035, more than half of the installed turbines will exceed 14 MW, with some projects aiming for 20 MW by early 2030.
The weight of wind towers varies based on the hub height, which must be more than half of the rotor diameter, excluding the clearance to the water surface. Different countries have specific requirements regarding hub height.
With the growth in rotor dimensions and turbine sizes, larger towers become necessary. Europe, in particular, has seen a demand for turbines of 12 MW or larger for offshore wind projects. Spain and Denmark currently lead the supply of offshore wind towers in Europe, accounting for approximately 90% of the estimated 1.1 million tonnes supplied across the continent.
The findings from Rystad Energy's analysis may shed light on the urgent need for Europe to address the upcoming shortage in offshore wind tower manufacturing capacity. By taking swift action and expanding production capabilities, Europe can ensure a stable and sustainable supply chain for its offshore wind sector, contributing to the successful realization of its energy transition goals.