Fair winds for offshore wind farms

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Despite economic and political uncertainties, weakening investments, grid connection issues and a dip in the U.S. onshore wind energy market, offshore wind around the world continues its momentum. The European Wind Energy Assn. (EWEA, Brussels, Belgium) says 132 offshore wind turbines in 13 wind farms (523.2 MW of capacity) came online in the first six months of 2012 ‚Äî an increase of 50 percent from the same period in 2011. EWEA also reports that as of June 2012, 4.3 GW of offshore turbines had been installed off the European coast, and conservative estimates are that the total could grow to 25 GW by 2020. In Japan a huge new 1-GW offshore wind farm ‚Äthe world‚Äôs largest to date ‚Äwas announced in January to replace the nuclear power capacity lost in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Although the U.K. (the world‚Äôs leader in installed offshore units), Germany, Belgium, France and Italy lead the offshore surge, China‚Äôs offshore wind industry is reportedly poised for huge growth. Moreover, Morocco and Tunisia have active developments, and in 2014, Egypt will begin work on a 200-MW wind farm in the Gulf of Suez. In fact, the offshore wind analysts at 4C Offshore (Suffolk, U.K.) are tracking 1,301 offshore wind projects in 38 countries with a total nameplate power capacity of 3.6 GW (for more information, see first editor’s note at the end of this article).