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The wind energy market outperforms its own record every year. Market growth rates are in the same range as those of high-tech technologies (internet, mobile phones and so on). Europe is the world leader in terms of installations and manufacturing, with most of the top ten manufacturers being European.
A popular misconception is to consider wind energy as a mature technology where R&D efforts are not necessarily needed. As a result, there is a risk of progressive loss of European leadership, as demonstrated by recent trends in the wind industry:
- High demand has increased wind turbine delivery time and the prices of raw materials such as steel and copper have increased in recent years, meaning that the cost of wind turbines has increased; and
- Although most wind turbine manufacturers are still European, two Chinese companies (GoldWind, Sinovel) and one Indian company (Suzlon) have entered the market.
In parallel, the European target of 20 per cent of energy production from renewable sources raises new challenges. In its recently published Strategic Research Agenda, the European wind energy platform, TPWind, proposed an ambitious and feasible vision for Europe. In this vision, 300 GW of wind energy capacity would be delivered by 2030, representing up to 28 per cent of EU electricity consumption. To implement this vision, an average 10 to 15 GW of additional capacity must be manufactured, delivered and implemented every year in Europe. This is equivalent to more than 20 turbines of 3 MW being installed each working day.
Moreover, TPWind’s vision includes a sub-objective of offshore wind energy representing some 10 per cent of EU electricity consumption by 2030. They propose an intermediate step of the implementation of 40 GW by 2020, compared to 1 GW installed today.
In this regard, R&D is needed on two fronts:
- An efficient implementation of the TPWind vision for wind energy, supporting the implementation of European targets; and
- Ensuring European leadership for the long term, through technological leadership.
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