Europe set over 400 more turbines spinning off its shores last year, adding some 2.65GW of new offshore wind plant to its energy mix and taking total installed capacity at sea to 18.5GW, according to latest figures from WindEurope.

The build-out, 15.8% down on a record-setting 2017 when 3.15GW was wired in, included 15 wind farms that were fully grid-connected and three which will continue to add turbines in 2019.

Construction work also kicked off on another six projects in 2018, in 12-month period during which the industry body's CEO, Giles Dickson, said “more and more governments [have started] recognising the merits of offshore wind”.

At the same time last year, another 12 wind farms reached FID (final investment decision), representing a €10.3bn capital spend that will lead to a further 4.2GW coming online “in the next couple of years”.

“Offshore wind continues to grow strongly in Europe,” said Dickson. “The total capacity expanded by a further 18% last year. Offshore wind now represents 2% of all the electricity consumed in Europe. And with a big pipeline of projects under construction and development, this number will rise significantly.”

The UK saw the largest additions – including the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, 653MW Walney 3, accounting for 44% of all installations off Europe. In second place was Germany (34%), which commissioned 465MW Borkum Riffgrund 2, followed by Belgium (6.4%) and the Netherlands (6%).

Siemens Gamesa continued to rule the European waves among OEMs, supplying 62% of purchased turbines, while MHI Vestas accounted for 33% of new orders. GE Renewable Energy connected it first commercial offshore machines, Haliade 150-6MWs, at Germany’s Merkur wind farm, as the average size of turbines grew to 6.8MW, up 15% on 2017.

“The technology keeps developing. The turbines keep getting bigger. And the costs keep falling. It’s now no more expensive to build offshore wind than it is to build coal or gas plants. And it’s a good deal cheaper than new nuclear,” stated Dickson.

“More and more governments are recognising the merits of offshore wind. Poland is the latest to embrace it with an ambitious plan to build 10GW by 2040. But a few countries are underperforming on it and risk missing out. Sweden is not building any offshore wind despite great potential. Germany has only a modest target for 2030.

“And the ‘gamma minus’ performer is France which still has no offshore wind farms nor is it clear when they will have. These countries have a chance to put things right this year with their National Energy & Climate Plans - they should grab it with two hands.”