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Europe's Offshore Wind Capacity Grew a Stunning 25% in 2017

Renewable Energy
Walney Offshore Wind Farm, located off the coast of Cumbria, England. Wikimedia Commons

2017 was a banner year for European offshore wind after installing a record 3.1 gigawatts of new capacity, twice the capacity installed in 2016, according to a new report from WindEurope, an industry association.

European offshore wind capacity grew 25 percent in just one year to total 15.8 gigawatts, which WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson called "spectacular."


"Offshore wind is now a mainstream part of the power system. And the costs have fallen rapidly," Dickson continued. "Investing in offshore wind today costs no more than in conventional power generation. It just shows Europe's ready to embrace a much higher renewables target for 2030. 35 percent is easily achievable. Not least now that floating offshore wind farms are also coming on line."

Fourteen offshore wind projects were completed in 2017, including the world's first floating offshore wind farm, the Hywind Scotland. There are now 92 offshore wind farms in 11 European countries. Another 11 offshore projects are underway and will add another 2.9 gigawatts once complete.

Even wind turbines are getting more powerful. The average size of installed offshore wind turbines was 5.9 megawatts, a 23 percent increase from the year prior.

By 2020, WindEurope expects Europe's cumulative offshore wind capacity to grow to a stunning 25 gigawatts.

"The message to Governments as they prepare their plans is 'go for it on offshore wind': it's perfectly affordable and getting cheaper still; it's a stable form of power with increasing capacity factors; and it's 'made in Europe' and supports jobs, industry, and exports," Dickson said.

However, as Climate Action noted from the report, only a small number of countries can claim the lion's share of Europe's offshore wind power boom last year. The United Kingdom installed roughly 1.7 gigawatts—or more than half of the additions. Germany followed with 1.3 gigawatts.

Belgium added 165 megawatts and Finland another 60 megawatts. Encouragingly, France developed its first 2 megawatts of offshore wind farm energy, reflecting French President Emmanuel Macron's plans to ditch fossil fuels and increase renewables.

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Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

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SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

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The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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