Europe’s ports will need $7.9 billion of investment to support offshore wind expansion, report says

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This photo shows wind turbine parts at a port in Ostend, Belgium.
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European ports will require new infrastructure and significant investment over the next few years to cope with the growth of the region’s offshore wind sector, according to a new report from industry body WindEurope.

In its report, published on Thursday, the Brussels-based organization said Europe’s ports would have to invest 6.5 billion euros (around $7.9 billion) by 2030 in order “to support the expansion of offshore wind.”

In a statement accompanying the report’s publication, WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson described ports as being “essential for offshore wind.”

“They’re a vital part of the supply and logistics chain that’s needed for the installation, assembly, operation and maintenance of offshore wind farms,” he added. “We can’t expand offshore without also expanding and upgrading Europe’s port infrastructure.”

As countries attempt to reduce emissions and move away from fossil fuels, offshore wind looks set to play a key role. The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, has previously said it wants offshore wind capacity to hit at least 60 gigawatts by 2030 and 300 GW by the middle of the century.

The U.K., which left the EU at the end of January 2020, wants its offshore wind capacity to reach 40 GW by 2030. According to WindEurope’s report: “Government commitments across Europe add up to 111 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.”

Alongside this expansion of capacity, the physical size of turbines is also set to grow. GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade X turbine, for example, will have a tip-height of 260 meters (853 feet), 107-meter long blades and a 220-meter rotor. Elsewhere, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy is working on the SG 14-222 DD, which will boast 108 meter blades and a rotor diameter of 222 meters.

WindEurope’s report addressed this new reality and the effect it could have in relation to ports and infrastructure. “Upgraded or entirely new facilities are needed to host larger turbines and a larger market,” it said.

“They will need to cater for operating and maintaining of a larger fleet (including training facilities), for upcoming decommissioning projects and to host new manufacturing centres for bottom-fixed and floating offshore wind,” it added.

Further to this, ports would need to “expand their land, reinforce quays, enhance their deep-sea harbours and carry out other civil works.”

WindEurope called upon the European Commission to put together what it described as “a clear strategy for port development.” In addition, it said the Commission needed to “recognise the high societal value of investing in ports.”

Port projects

The importance of ports was illustrated by a number of announcements this week. On Thursday, Norwegian energy major Equinor said it had acquired a site at the Polish port of Łeba.

The firm — better known for its production of oil and gas — said the site would be used as an “operations and maintenance … base” for offshore wind developments located in the Polish Baltic Sea.

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

According to those behind the project, it would offer a “riverside marine berth capable of accommodating the world’s largest offshore wind installation vessels.”

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

He said: “Leith’s proximity to the North Sea, which is set to become home to many more offshore wind developments, coupled with the natural deep waters of the Firth of Forth, makes this an ideal location to support not only those developments already planned, but the pipeline of projects that are sure to follow.”

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