The European Commission is banking on offshore wind power to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 – an achievable goal thanks to epoxy resins!
The European Commission has set out the ambition to make Europe the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050. One of the levers to achieve this “EU Green Deal” objective is the decarbonisation of the energy sector through the development of the full potential of clean energy sources.
The European Commission has placed particular emphasis on the buildout of offshore wind energy. It proposes to increase Europe’s offshore wind capacity from its current level to at least 60 GW by 2030 and to 300 GW by 2050. This means a massive change of scale for the sector in less than 30 years, at a speed unparalleled by the past development of other energy technologies. It means multiplying the capacity for offshore renewable energy by nearly 30 times by 2050. The investment needed to do so is estimated at up to EUR 800 billion.
Europe is the world leader in offshore wind power with a total installed offshore wind capacity of 22,072 MWcurrently. This corresponds to 5,047 grid-connected wind turbines across 12 countries (including UK).
Did you know?
The UK has the largest amount of offshore wind capacity in Europe, with 45% of all installations. Germany is second with 34%, followed by Denmark (8%), Belgium (7%) and the Netherlands (5%).
THE ROLE OF EPOXY RESINS
Offshore wind power plants are tens of kilometres from the coasts and are therefore exposed to the extreme conditions found on high seas: strong winds, rough sea and salt water corrosion.
Most of the wind turbine poles in the North Sea are thus coated with epoxy resins to protect the structure from salt corrosion. Epoxy resins also ensure the robustness of the offshore wind turbines and their durability.
Epoxy resins have also made it possible to steadily increase the diameter of wind blades over the past 20 years enabling increased energy generation.
Improving the durability of wind turbines, epoxies help achieve one of the Green Deal’s priorities, which is enhanced service life and reduced maintenance costs in the development of offshore wind farms.
CIRCULARITY OF OFFSHORE WIND TURBINES
Today around 85 to 90% of wind turbines’ total mass can be recycled. Most components of a wind turbine – the foundation, tower and components in the nacelle – have established recycling practices. However, wind turbine blades are more challenging to recycle due to the composite materials used in their production. While various technologies exist to recycle blades, and an increasing number of companies offer composite recycling services, these solutions are not yet widely available and cost-competitive.
Initiatives are being taken by the industry to promote a circular economy of wind turbine blades. WindEurope (representing the wind energy industry), Cefic (representing the European Chemical Industry) and EuCIA (representing the European Composites Industry) have created a cross-sector platform to advance approaches for the recycling of wind turbine blades, including technologies, processes, waste flow management, re-integration in the value chain and logistics.
Read their recommendations for the recycling of wind turbine blades “Accelerating Wind Turbine Blade Circularity”.
 European Commission “An EU Strategy to harness the potential of offshore renewable energy for a climate neutral future” (19.11.2020). URL: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_2096
 Wind Europe: “Offshore Wind in Europe – Key Trends and Statistics 2019”.