Wind is a clean, free and abundant energy source used to generate electricity. Wind turbines work on a simple principle: the wind makes their blades spin, creating kinetic energy. A generator then converts this kinetic energy into electrical energy.
A wind farm is a group of wind turbines that can cover several square kilometers of land or sea to harness either onshore or offshore wind.
Continued improvements in manufacturing and turbine design combined with improved capacity factors (more MWh of electricity generated per MW of wind turbines installed; for example, thanks to more performant turbines and/or better localisation) have driven down the costs of wind power and confirmed its position as a key driver of the clean energy transition. In 2020, wind accounted for over one-third (36%) of the total electricity generated from renewable sources in the EU.
The wind sector is also a significant contributor to the EU economy, boosting growth and creating long-term sustainable jobs. It provided between 240,000 and 300,000 jobs in the EU in 2020, of which about 62,000 were in the offshore wind industry.
In some EU countries, the length and complexity of permitting processes can be an obstacle to renewable energy projects in general, and to wind power in particular. To address this issue, the Renewable Energy Directive (2018/2001/EU) includes provisions on the organisation and maximum duration of the permit-granting process. This will help set in motion renewable energy projects while taking into account legitimate concerns of citizens and respecting environmental standards.
What are 'renewable energy communities'?
The directive focuses on grassroots initiatives while also making it easier for people to consume and produce renewable energy.
By introducing rules for 'renewable energy communities', the directive enables people to take part in renewable energy projects like wind farms. Empowering citizens in the clean energy transition may also help increase local acceptance of renewable energy projects.
Offshore wind in the EU
The EU has helped develop wind power thanks to ambitious policies and investments. European companies have invaluable experience by being first movers – the first offshore wind farm was installed in Denmark in 1991. With already around 16 GW of grid-connected capacity, the EU is leading in offshore wind deployment, and it is currently a global leader in the manufacturing of key wind turbine components, as well as in the foundations and cables industry: almost half of the active companies in the wind sector (onshore and offshore) are headquartered in the EU.
To explore offshore sites further out to sea with stronger and more consistent winds, several European developers are working on floating offshore wind turbines. The first pilot projects are now up and running, with deployment expected to accelerate towards the end of this decade.
To harness the full potential of offshore wind in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and boost cooperation between countries in these regions, the EU is also part of the North Seas Energy Cooperation and the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan.
Boosting the development of offshore wind power by 2050
In November 2020, the Commission published a new EU strategy on offshore renewable energy under the European Green Deal. The strategy aims to push for the step-change needed to have an installed capacity of at least 60 GW of offshore wind and at least 1 GW of ocean energy by 2030, with a view to reach 300 GW, 10 and 40 GW of installed capacity, respectively, by 2050.
- Guidance document ─ Wind energy developments and EU nature legislation
- Renewable Energy Directive (2018/2001/EU)
- EU strategy on offshore renewable energy