Huge year for wind power in Europe

Tobias Schwarz | AFP | Getty Images

Offshore wind investments in Europe doubled in 2015, according to new data from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

Spending hit 13.3 billion euros ($14.45 billion) last year, with the European Union's total offshore wind capacity now more than 11 gigawatts (GW) of power.

"The record year for investments and installations in the offshore wind industry is a very promising sign and we now have 11GW of offshore capacity in the EU," Oliver Joy, spokesperson for the EWEA, said in a statement.

"There were several key factors behind these numbers, most notably strong growth in Germany and a backlog of turbines that were in the water in 2014 but only connected to the grid last year," Joy added.

Looking to 2016, Joy admitted that number of turbines being connected to the power infrastructure would dip, but that going forward, "stronger years are expected towards 2020. Turbine orders are up significantly and we will see the 13.3 billion euros final investment decisions taken this year begin to kick-in in the latter part of the decade."

The EWEA says that including sites under construction, Europe is home to 84 offshore wind farms in 11 countries.

Joy added that a question mark remained over how wind power would fare after 2020, and said that policymakers needed to set out "clear visions for offshore wind after 2020 to give investors and the industry certainty well into the future."

The EWEA's data follows an announcement last week that the world's first offshore wind farm for "icy conditions" is set to be built off the coast of Finland, in northern Europe.

The farm will be made up of 10 four megawatt wind turbines supplied by Siemens.

"The conditions for offshore wind power are excellent in Finland: we have a long coastline, windy conditions, shallow waters, and a hard seafloor, as well as harbors and industrial infrastructure all along the coastline," Toni Sulameri, managing director of wind power production company Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy, said in a release last week.

"Offshore wind power produces roughly one and a half times the energy of onshore wind power," Sulameri went on to add.

Construction of the farm is set to begin in the spring, at a cost of around 120 million euros.

It's expected that the wind farms will begin to produce energy from autumn 2017.

According to Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy, it's estimated that the wind farm will produce more than 155 million kilowatt-hours per year, "equal to the annual electricity consumption of 8,600 electrically heated single-family houses."

The potential of wind power is significant. According to the International Energy Agency, wind could generate as much as 18 percent of the world's power by 2050.