September 30, 2022

This photo shows wind turbine parts in a port in Ostend, Belgium.

Philippe Clément / Arterra | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

According to a new report from the industry association WindEurope, European ports will require new infrastructure and significant investments in the next few years to cope with the growth of the offshore wind sector in the region.

In its report published on Thursday, the Brussels-based organization said that European ports would have to invest 6.5 billion euros by 2030 to “support the expansion of offshore wind”.

In a statement accompanying the release of the report, WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson described ports as “essential to offshore wind”.

“They are an integral part of the supply and logistics chain needed to install, assemble, operate and maintain offshore wind farms,” ​​he added. “We cannot expand offshore without also expanding and improving the European port infrastructure.”

As countries try to cut emissions and move away from fossil fuels, offshore wind is likely to play a key role. The EU executive, the European Commission, previously announced that offshore wind capacity should reach at least 60 gigawatts by 2030 and 300 GW by the middle of the century.

The UK, which left the EU in late January 2020, wants its offshore wind capacity to reach 40 GW by 2030. According to WindEuropes’ report, “Government commitments across Europe add up to 111 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.”

In addition to this capacity expansion, the physical size of the turbines will also increase. For example, GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade X turbine will have a top height of 260 meters, 107-meter-long blades and a 220-meter-long rotor. Elsewhere, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy is working on the SG 14-222 DD, which has 108-meter blades and a rotor diameter of 222 meters.

WindEurope’s report looked at this new reality and the potential impact on ports and infrastructure. “For larger turbines and a larger market, modernized or completely new systems are required,” it says.

“They need to operate and maintain a larger fleet (including training facilities), upcoming decommissioning projects and new production centers for both ground and floating offshore wind,” he added.

In addition, the ports would have to “expand their land, reinforce the quays, improve their deep-sea ports and carry out other construction work”.

WindEurope asked the European Commission to put together a “clear strategy for port development”. In addition, the Commission must “recognize the high social value of investments in ports”.

Port projects

The importance of the ports was highlighted by a series of announcements this week. On Thursday, the Norwegian energy major Equinor announced that he had acquired a location in the Polish port of Łeba.

The company – better known for its oil and gas production – said the site will be used as an “operations and maintenance base” for offshore wind developments in the Polish Baltic Sea.

A few days earlier, the port operator Forth Ports announced plans for a “renewable energy hub” in the Scottish port of Leith. The proposed hub, which would be covered by private investment of £ 40 million (US $ 56.76 million), is expected to cover 175 acres when built.

According to the promoters, it would “provide a sea berth on the river that can accommodate the largest offshore wind installation vessels in the world”.

In a statement, Forth Ports CEO Charles Hammond listed a number of factors that he believed made the project attractive.

He said, “Leith’s proximity to the North Sea, where many more offshore wind developments will take place, and the natural deep waters of the Firth of Forth make this an ideal location to support not only developments already planned, but the pipeline of projects who will surely follow. “