Asia to become next offshore wind market - executive

Asia is in line to become the next major offshore wind market to emerge after Europe, and is likely to become a major exporter of both offshore turbines and subsea foundations in the coming years, a senior wind executive tells Recharge.

Many of the prime areas for offshore wind in European waters have already been carved up, leaving many hungry firms looking to foreign pastures, says Ronnie Bonnar, operations director for Aberdeen-based SeaEnergy Renewables.

Offshore leases in Europe will continue changing hands, albeit at an ever-slowing rate, he says. But the attention of the European offshore renewables sector will be heavily focused on building out existing sites over the next decade.

“In the UK and much of Europe they’re done awarding green-field [offshore] sites – at least for the medium term,” Bonnar says.

“But we’re not done growing. So from our perspective, the key areas for growth over the next few years will be in the Far East in particular, but also the US, both along the eastern seaboard and the Great Lakes.”

The Crown Estate, which owns the UK seabed, has awarded SeaEnergy two zones totaling 1.8 gigawatts (GW) in Scottish territorial waters, and the 1.3GW Moray Firth zone under Round 3.

Late last year SeaEnergy established a partnership with Taiwan Generation Corporation, which holds a pipeline of offshore wind projects along the Taiwanese coast totalling 1.7GW. Their first venture will be the 600-megawatt Changhua project in the Taiwan Strait, which could be operational by 2013.

Bonnar says now is the time to snap up offshore zones in Asian countries with an eye on offshore wind. “Wherever we go, we want to get into the development process as early as possible to secure the best real estate.”

Bonnar says Asian governments will throw their support behind offshore wind projects once local manufacturers and offshore contractors stand to benefit.

“We’ll eventually see a major offshore turbine maker coming out of that part of the world,” he says. “I also think Asian companies -- particular in Korea and China -- will be very involved in subsea foundation manufacturing.”