Ambitious wind vision has huge potential for the companies at the port of Esbjerg

This year’s WindEurope Offshore conference was held in Copenhagen recently and the ambitions for wind energy are gigantic: 450 GW of capacity is to be installed by 2050. Port Esbjerg sees great potential and vast opportunities in this vision – combined with a great deal of hard work!   

The green transition needs to be accelerated. This is the main conclusion of the WindEurope Offshore conference which was held 26–28 November in Copenhagen. The European wind industry organisation WindEurope organised the event which attracted more than 9,000 specialists from all over the world who came to discuss how offshore wind energy can contribute to making Europe CO2-neutral.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), wind energy can cover 30 per cent of Europe’s energy consumption in 2050, if 450 GW of capacity is installed. And the message from WindEurope is loud and clear: It is certainly realistic to reach this goal even though it would require a twenty-fold increase in capacity.

This is the message in IEA’s new report ‘Our energy, our future’, which was presented at the conference. The report makes suggestions as to how it would be possible to install 450 GW of capacity by 2050, and it also identifies the associated challenges.

At the conference, the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities Dan Jørgensen praised the wind turbine industry:

“We have achieved a great deal with wind technology, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the wind turbine industry. You have brought us change. You have given us hope. You have come far, and we have come far – but we have not come far enough. Offshore wind has the potential to play a huge part in the decarbonisation of Europe.”

At the conference, the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities Dan Jørgensen praised the wind turbine industry.

A huge potential

There is currently 20 GW of capacity installed in Europe, and the report says that if we are to reach the goal of installing 450 GW, the industry will have to change gear. And it needs to happen in two stages.

At the moment, 3 GW of capacity is being installed per year, but already in 2023, the industry is to raise that to 5GW. This is close to a two-fold increase in just four years. After 2030, the ambition is to get to more than 20 GW a year.

“This has huge potential,” says Port Esbjerg’s CCO Jesper Bank. He is well aware of the port’s own obligations and challenges, if the speed of the green transition is accelerated to that extent.  

The vision is that 212 GW is installed in the North Sea, so even though Esbjerg is already the European leader in terms of wind energy, this is not the time to hesitate.

“The report is very specific. In just five years, we need to get to more than twice the growth rate we’re at now. That’s quite an increase, and if we have five years to do it, we are almost late out of the gate as it is. At Esbjerg, we are well underway, but even so we will really have to get cracking now,” explains Bank.

Planning and logistics are crucial

According to Bank, there are two conditions that will affect whether Port Esbjerg will be able to keep up with WindEurope’s vision. The first condition is space, pure and simple. The fact is that wind turbines take up an awful lot of space, and additional port and quay space is needed to support the development. However, it may be even more important to consider what current space at the port is actually being used for.

“It’s not enough to focus on space. It will also require smart planning and efficient logistics, if we are to double our potential in offshore wind. That is the second condition and it’s really on this point that we need to improve and focus our energy,” says Bank.

Both a vision and a strategy are required, and they are now documented in WindEurope’s report and the government’s 18-page agreement backed by Denmark’s new Climate Act. It is part of the climate action plan to explore whether Denmark can build the first energy island with a minimum of 10 GW of capacity by 2030. At the same time, it is worth exploring whether Denmark and the North Sea countries could develop a joint strategy for utilising the offshore wind potential.  

The conference Wind Europe Offshore was held in Copenhagen with the participation of both Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities Dan Jørgensen, and Crown Prince Frederik. Photo: WindEurope

Collaboration must address obstacles

On that point, Bank sees a shift within the industry. The focus is no longer on the nacelles and the size of the blades when experts discuss ways of optimising wind energy.

“At previous conferences, the main focus was on technology. Now the interest has shifted towards process and how we get things done. There is now great emphasis on the need for collaboration between companies, ports and regions – everyone doing their own thing is no longer enough,” says Bank.

According to Bank, the potential lies in collaboration. At the conference, attendees did not only discuss opportunities and a bright future. Concerns were also raised regarding political obstacles. 

“In the end, it’s collaboration that’ll make the difference. We need, for example, political coordination of the work involved in laying cables and building new farms. We need to pool our efforts and coordinate the work across national borders,” argues Bank.

As certain sections of the North Sea are the national waters of five different nations, different conditions may apply, and there may be issues, if you have a ship with an international crew working on a German wind farm. For example, it is not possible to build wind farms in at least 60 per cent of the North Sea for environmental reasons or to protect the interests of the fishing or shipping industries. Naturally, such considerations must be taken into account, but with more international coordination, it is possible to make more room for everyone.

“One set of rules applies in Danish waters and another in German waters. So we need to pool our efforts and coordinate the work, because different national standards are at odds as things are,” explains Bank.

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