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European Offshore Wind May Surge 70% in 2011, Trade Group Says

European installations of offshore wind power may surge 70 percent this year, topping 2010’s record 51 percent gain, the European Wind Energy Association said.

This year is likely to have 1 gigawatt to 1.5 gigawatts of sea-based windmills connected to region’s electricity grid, after 883 megawatts of capacity was installed in 2010, the Brussels-based lobby known as EWEA said today in a report.

Countries including the U.K., Denmark and Belgium are betting on offshore wind power to help meet their renewable energy targets. While financing remains difficult to get for the capital-intensive projects, more banks are coming to the market, according to EWEA’s e-mailed study.

“Finance remains a big challenge, but we are seeing improvements with more banks and other financing institutions ready to invest in large offshore wind projects,” EWEA Chief Executive Christian Kjaer said. “The 29 new offshore turbine models announced during 2010 show a growing commitment to the sector by large global industrial players.”

Total installed capacity, at 2.9 gigawatts, is now enough to power 2.9 million homes, according to the study. More than 40 percent of capacity is based in the U.K., and 29 percent is in Denmark.

“Britain is leading the world in the deployment of offshore wind power,” Kjaer said. “Not only is it ahead in the sheer scale of installed offshore wind power, but it is also increasingly successful in attracting research, development, and manufacturing, from major industry players.”

Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica SA, Spain’s largest turbine maker, plans to invest 150 million euros ($202 million) by 2014 in the U.K. to set up a research center and turbine blade factory as well as a global headquarters for its offshore wind business. General Electric Co. and Siemens AG have also proposed factories in Britain.

Dong Energy A/S, Denmark’s largest energy company and its top offshore wind farm operator, accounting for 26 percent of installed capacity, according to the study. Stockholm-based Vattenfall AB, is next, with 21 percent, and then comes Germany’s E.ON AG on 16 percent.

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