International Institute of Applied Research and Technology


Wind Energy

What is Wind Energy?

Wind energy is a renewable, widely available source of energy. It is a mature renewable technology in comparison with other renewable sources. Wind energy represented 8.2 % of total EU28 electricity production in 2014 (Eurostat, 2015). In terms of power generation capacity connected to the grid in the EU28, almost 12 GW of new turbines were connected to the grid accounting for 43.7 % of total 2014 power capacity installations, followed by solar PV (8 GW, about 30 %) and coal (3.3 GW, about 12 %) The total wind energy capacity connected to the EU grid reached 129 GW (EWEA, 2015c).European wind power annual installation increased from 3.2 GW in 2000 to 13 GW in 2014, a compound annual growth rate of over 10 % (Lacal Arántegui & Serrano González, 2015). In terms of total installed power capacity, wind’s share has increased five-fold from 2.2 % in 2000 to 14,1 % in 2014 (EWEA, 2015c).

Ashore wind energy is a mature technology that is nevertheless undergoing continuous improvements. Currently, R&D is primarily focused on reducing the cost of wind electricity and on taking the technology further offshore, where public opinion is more supportive of new wind farm installations.

Although its share of total wind capacity remains small, the offshore wind sector reached 1.5 GW of new capacity, slightly lower than in 2013 in which 1.6 GW were installed (5 % decrease). These figures represented a 14.4 % in 2014 and a 16.3 % in 2013.

For the period 2015-17 a strong performance is expected initially and a slight reduction of annual installations afterwards (SETIS 2014)/

Further information on wind energy can be found at the Strategic Energy Technologies Information System (SETIS):https://setis.ec.europa.eu/technologies/wind-energy.

Technology facts

The rotors of wind turbines (WT) transform the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical energy, and then into electricity. Wind turbines are normally grouped together in wind farms in order to obtain economies of scale.

The main technological development in recent years is a trend towards larger wind turbines. Turbines have evolved from about 20 kW in the 1980s to 8 MW nowadays affecting also the height of the turbine tower, from 20 m in the early 1990s to just above 150 m today.

Depending on the location two types of installations are identified: onshore(inland facilities) & offshore (marine installations). Due to land use constraints and resource availability, there are more suitable sites offshore than onshore: wind speeds are higher and less turbulent away from land, leading to more wind energy generation.

Larger wind turbines lead to new challenges in the field of load control and turbine construction materials, while offshore sites require increased technological focus on foundations and materials adapted to the marine environment.

Storage technologies will play a key role in the further development of wind farms increasing the grid flexibility and accommodating wind energy in the electricity network.

What are the barriers and needs of Wind Energy?

The most important barriers of wind energy are mainly economic, political, administrative and grid connection and social issues (Lacal Arántegui & Serrano González, 2015) and (EWEA, 2010). More specifically and associated with those categories the main barriers are thehigh up-front capital cost supported by a lack of vision by certain governments regarding the deployment of renewable energies and wind in particular. Grid integration also plays and important role to support the deployment of wind technology. Current electricity transmission and distribution systems are not fully prepared to be operated under a flexible approach as required. Last but not least, social acceptance represents an important barrier to be overcome in terms of environment and landscape preservation and noise pollution.

At national level, some barriers are identified in different MS as presented below.

Table 1. Challenges & needs faced by European countries (Lacal Arántegui & Serrano González, 2015).
Nature of barriers Barriers Countries Needs
Political Retroactive measures BG, CZ, ES, RO, GR Define a national feasible technology roadmap that is long-term; ensuring economic resources, business models and procedures avoiding steps back in energy policies.
Political / Economic No support scheme for wind energy CY, MT Set supportive measures such as Feed-in tariffs (FiTs), feed-in premium (FIPs), tenders, quota obligations or Contracts for Difference (CfDs) depending on the maturity and share of wind energy in the national framework.
Political Reliability of the regulatory framework LT, LV, PL,PT, SI, SK, NL Ensure the viability of the policy programme to gain the confidence of investors as well as public opinion.
Administrative procedures Long "lead time"
Long periods to get building consent and grid connection. The average lead time in the EU is 54.8 months for onshore and 32 months for offshore.
Compliance with spatial planning, and environmental regulations.
AT, BE, LT, PL, IT, UK, PT Make clear requirements on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).
Develop spatial planning (Maritime Spatial Planning in the case of offshore installations) to ensure the most appropriate locations and wind development areas.
Administrative procedures Complex administrative procedure
High number of authorities to be contacted to develop a project.
BE, LT, CY, EE, PT, ES, FR, GR The objective of 'one stop shop' should be a priority for the EU for both onshore and offshore. (24 months as estimated time).
Authorities should disseminate clear information to facilitate procedures and decision-making processes.
Grid connection Lack of transparency on the connection procedure/Complex connection procedure
Absence of clear information on the available grid connection capacity, a lack of planning for future grid extension and reinforcements on behalf of system operators, insufficient grid capacity, and other aspects such as land ownership.
BG, CZ, PT, RO, HU Improve the transparency of administrative procedures across the EU.
Inform both the developers and the local authorities of the applicable rules and regulations. Set deadlines for the administrative process. Provide clear definitions of the grid connection requirements.
Reinforce the onshore and offshore transmission system (through cooperation between different EU member states).

From a technology perspective, there is still room for improvement but the consequences, linked to the implementation of more efficient systems, have constraints.

Scaling up turbines requires the reduction in the use of materials through better design that lead to a life cycle assessment and resource management as well as research on new materials. Finally in order to achieve bigger and taller wind turbines, installation and transportation constrains, optimization of designs have to be assessed.

What are industry and the EU doing about Wind Energy?


Wind deployment facts


Onshore average investment cost range: EUR 1 050 – 1 400/kW (by mid-2014).

Offshore investment: EUR 2 300 – 4 200/kW, highly affected by supply-chain limitations. Investment costs are expected to be 20 – 40 % lower by 2020.

Operational costs

Onshore operational costs (OpEx) are around EUR 18/MWh all included and, over a 20-year operation period, constitute 30 – 40 % of total costs.

Offshore operational costs (OpEx) are between EUR 25 – 40/MWh, with a European average of EUR 30/MWh.


O&M onshore cost in Europe may vary between EUR 26/kW/yr and EUR 37/kW/yr (World Energy Council, 2013)/

O&M is part of the broader OpEx costs, which include e.g. land rental, insurance, etc.

Europe remains a global leader in wind energy, although the global market share of top European turbine manufacturers dropped from 73 % in 2007 to around 43.5 % in 2014, as Chinese manufacturers take advantage of their stronger market (Lacal Arántegui & Serrano González, 2015). Even so, in 2014, three of the top five wind turbine manufacturers were European and the world leader (Vestas) is based in Denmark, with a 12.3 % market share in 2014. During 2014, an estimated 51.5 GW of new wind power capacity was installed globally, bringing the total (cumulative) global installed capacity to approximately 370 GW, of which some 10 GW offshore (Global Wind Energy Council, 2015).

Therefore, the onshore market is higher than the offshore. In 2014, the onshore sector in the EU attracted investments of between EUR 8.9 billion and EUR 12.8 billion meanwhile the offshore market received between EUR 4.2 billion and EUR 5.9 billion (EWEA, 2015c).

In terms of offshore grid-connected wind farm average size in Europe, it was 368 MW in 2014, 24 % lower compared to the previous year (EWEA, 2015a).

Ongoing research funding structure

As one of the most mature renewable technologies, most of investments in R&D come from private sector meanwhile public investment represented a share of 17 % and representing a total amount of EUR 233 million considering 2011 as year of reference.

Despite the reduced share of public investment in R&D, Europe leads total R&D investment in wind (40 % of total R&D investment worldwide). In 2011, the EU public investment accounted for almost 9 % of the public funding for energy technologies in Europe.

Concerning the private European sector, in 2011 the investment reached more than EUR 1 100 million.

Market penetration plays a role: countries where wind accounts for a larger share of the energy market tend to invest more in technology development. Thus Denmark and Germany leads the private investment (75 %) and also in terms of corporate investment vs turnover with a ratio of almost 8 % in both cases.

There is a big gap between the two leading contributors and the remaining investing countries.

Ongoing research on technology development

As most technologies, the main wind turbine design driving goal is to reduce the levelised costs of energy through lower capital and operating costs, increased reliability and higher energy production, which translate into: specific designs for low and high wind sites, grid compatibility; low noise, good aerodynamic performance and redundancy of systems in offshore machines. (Lacal Arántegui & Serrano González, 2015.)

What is the current and future potential place of Wind Energy in the energy system?

With 129 GW of grid-connected wind capacity at the end of 2014, the EU-28 has more than one-third of the 370 GW of wind capacity installed globally (Global Wind Energy Council, 2015). Wind is expected to be one of the main contributors of electricity production from renewable sources. Global Installed wind capacity has grown at an average rate of 23 % per year over the last ten years (since 2005) being 35 % the compound average growth rate at the European level. Wind capacity installed by the end of 2014 would produce 265 TWh of electricity in a normal year equivalent to the full demand of Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Ireland (Lacal Arántegui & Serrano González, 2015)/

The European wind industry association, EWEA, in its ‘central scenario’, has recently revised its 2020 target downwards from 230 GW of installed capacity in Europe, including 40 GW offshore, to 192 GW of wind power, producing 442 TWh of electricity, meeting 14.9 % of electricity consumption. By 2030, EWEA predicts an increase to 320 GW, generating 780 TWh of electricity (EWEA, 2015b).

Who is/should be involved in Wind Energy?

In accordance with the EU companies sampling carried out by (Corsatea, Fiorini, Georgakaki, & Lepsa, 2015), Denmark is made by a small number of very large investors, while there seem to be a greater variety of actors in some of the other countries which feature strongly in terms of corporate wind energy R&D. The high numbers of companies with minor contributions may show a trend towards greater participation of smaller firms in R&D activities in this field or cross-over activities by companies expanding to this sector.

Based on the participation in R&D programmes, most of the companies are turbine manufacturers with a share of 87 %, ahead of utility companies (6 %) and construction & installation firms (6 %) mainly because most challenges faces by the sector are focused on the construction of larger turbines.

Concerning national programmes, EUR 161 million were invested in wind technology through EU national research budgets, while an additional third of this value was brought-in by European institutions. Most of the latter support came from the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR) which allocated EUR 565 million to offshore wind projects (including grid connections) in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. FP7 funds invested in total in wind energy-related research EUR 271 million, attracting an additional EUR 146 million from programme participants. The majority of the attracted funding came from private companies, which is consistent with corporate investment being the major R&D funding source for this technology.

At the regional level, several regions have included wind as a policy priority under the capability of 'Energy Production & Distribution' (Table 2).

Table 2. List of European regions with Energy Policy Priority on Wind Energy (“Eye@RIS3,” 2015)
Region/Country Name Description EU Priority Capability Market Target
BE Flemish Region Sustainable energy technologies with focus on hydrogen, wind energy and electrical vehicles. part of 'Sustainable living' smart specialisation domain. Sustainable innovation Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
DE Bremen Wind energy Sustainable innovation Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
DE Weser-Ems Energy. Bioenergy, Wind energy, Gas, Storage technology, Photovoltaics, Smart grids Sustainable innovation Energy production & distribution
DE Schleswig-Holstein Maritime economy (maritime technologies, specialised ship construction, offshore energy (wind, oil, gas), maritime biotechnology, production facilities, wind parks, facilities to refuel ships with LNG or other alternative fuels, innovative harbour infrastructures for the cruise economy) Blue growth Manufacturing & industry
DE Schleswig-Holstein Renewable energies (services/logistics, biomass, energy efficient technologies, expansion of offshore wind energy, software for renewable energies, energy and drive technology, nano-particles, materials, coatings) Sustainable innovation Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
ES Galicia Diversification of the Galician energy sector to obtain significant efficiency improvement in exploiting Galician natural resources by prioritising biomass and marine energy. [Biomass and Marine Energies] Sustainable innovation Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
FI Satakunta Marine industry (arctic). Offshore industry is defined as businesses that support offshore oil and gas exploration and production as well as offshore wind power construction and production. Blue growth Manufacturing & industry Machinery & equipment n.e.c.
FR Champagne-Ardenne Intelligent energy management linked to combined energy production (wind, bio, nuclear). This involves energy distribution and storage and network management/ Digital Agenda Energy production & distribution Energy distribution
FR Haute-Normandie Wind turbine systems, sustainable energy Sustainable innovation Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
FR Basse-Normandie Renewable marine energy generation Blue growth Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable
FR Pays de la Loire Marine industries: naval construction, offshore construction, renewable marine energy. Blue growth Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
FR Réunion Marine energy Blue growth Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
PT Portugal Particular strength in the production of electricity through wind, hydro and photovoltaic sources of renewable energy. Sustainable innovation Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
RS Vojvodina Ecology & environmental protection (waste water management, recycling, decrease of harmful gas emission, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources: geothermal resources, biomass/biogas, biodiesel, mini hydropower, wind turbines, solar energy). Nature & biodiversity Energy production & distribution
SE Övre Norrland Sustainable energy, such as bio energy, water and wind power and clean tech, such as more efficient industrial processes. Sustainable innovation Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
UK Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Marine energy Blue growth Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
UK Scotland Marine energy Blue growth Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources
UK England Offshore wind Blue growth Energy production & distribution Power generation/renewable sources