Romania’s Offshore Wind Energy Resources: Natural Potential, Regulatory Framework, and Development Prospects

Offshore wind power is regarded as a likely pillar in reaching net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by 2050, as envisioned by the European Green Deal. Europe is home to some of the world’s most significant offshore wind resources. Better tapping into this potential will be addressed in the Commission’s upcoming 2020 Offshore Wind Strategy, expected to bolster a rapid expansion of offshore wind on the continent, from the current 20 GW installed capacity to 450 GW by 2050. Offshore wind generation can offer numerous advantages: high full-load hours, high operating hours, rather low variability and, consequently, greater predictability and lower forecast errors, as well as lower balancing power needs compared to onshore wind and solar PV.

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The present study assesses the natural and technical potential of Romania’s offshore wind sector, finding an estimated total potential natural capacity of 94 GW, out of which 22 GW could be installed as fixed turbines, leading to a total Annual Energy Production (AEP) of 239 TWh, with 54,4 TWh from fixed turbines. The data analysed in this report show that wind speeds increase with the distance to the shore, with only the central part of the deep-water sector having more sizeable mean wind speeds (close to 7 m/s). A large part of Romania’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) consists of a deep-water area (>50 m) that is more suitable for floating platforms. Nonetheless, several offshore wind farms in Europe have been recently built at about 60 km from shore, a distance that is just within the Romanian transition area from shallow to deep water. The study identifies two potential clusters with most favourable conditions for a first stage of offshore wind development, based on fixed turbines: one with capacity factors between 33-35%, in water depths below 50 m at 40-60 km from the shore – an area that strikes the right balance between wind resources and costs of the required offshore network, given the possibility to inject the output in the Constanța Sud electrical substation and the proximity to the Port of Constanța.

The other area presents marginally better wind resources, but the existing onshore power transmission line is further inland and the connection grid would have to be extended through the Danube Delta, which is a protected area. To develop its wind potential in the Black Sea, Romania needs to address a number of key issues, the most significant being overcoming grid challenges. Any new offshore wind farm developed in Romanian waters will have to be connected to the grid in Dobrogea, where a large part of the country’s power generation assets are already located and additional renewables are planned to be developed, alongside two new nuclear units at Cernavodă, to the effect of almost doubling the installed capacity in an area with quite limited local energy demand. A separate issue is the offshore grid connections. As project size and distance from shore increase, higher voltage lines are used to minimize electrical losses. Large projects built farther away from shore may use a connection for high voltage direct current (HVDC), leading to higher up-front costs.

To avoid unnecessary spending and optimise offshore infrastructure costs, advanced coordinated planning is paramount, starting with the phase of maritime spatial planning. The government should prepare, with close and early involvement of the relevant stakeholders, the national Maritime Spatial Plan (MSP), as required under the MSP Directive. The MSP is critically important in advancing state interests and lowering the risk of conflict between potential activities and policy priorities: shipping, military zones, fishing, environmental and biodiversity impact, archaeological sites, as well as other facilities and economic activities. 

Collaboration and investment by wind farm developers must be encouraged with the purpose of facilitating timely construction and maximising common utilisation of offshore connections. The offshore wind electricity production will have beneficial effects for the Romanian power markets. The energy system would benefit from a more constant power output and increased forecast accuracy, which reduces costs related to power management and balancing. Then, less volatile electricity production increases the offshore producers’ odds to compete on futures markets, with medium and long-term delivery products, which have lower commercial risk than the products offered by their onshore peers. Assuming increased interconnectivity of the regional market, the additional clean electricity will limit the room for fossil fuel-based generators on the spot markets.

Development of offshore wind farms should also be planned to facilitate an accelerated decarbonisation of key sectors such as transport and industry, either through direct electrification using renewable energy, or through the use of hydrogen. Creating demand for clean hydrogen will also help ease the difficulties of evacuating the electricity produced by offshore wind farms out of the Dobrogea region. If Romania makes efficient use of the available EU financial instruments for clean energy development, it is well positioned to become a premier producer of clean hydrogen in Southeast Europe and can develop into a regional exporter. The Dobrogea region, in particular, has all the prerequisites for hosting a hub of hydrogen development, as it has both exceptional prospects to produce clean hydrogen by means of onshore and offshore renewable sources, and potential for significant local demand from refineries and steel making industry, district heating, decarbonised port activities, as well as naval transport.

Expanding port capacity is paramount. A well-equipped port facility within economic distance from the offshore wind development areas is a key prerequisite, considering that components such as foundations, platforms or substations are manufactured directly at the nearest port facility, which also plays a key role in operations and maintenance (O&M). This highlights the need to encourage and support the modernisation of port facilities and infrastructure to host larger turbines, ramp up volumes, cater to operation and maintenance, develop training facilities and decommissioning centres for fixed and floating turbines. Ports are also important for integrating the energy output of offshore power generation, either as direct energy consumers or by potentially becoming hubs for clean hydrogen. The Port of Constanța can, therefore, expand its strategic position in the Black Sea and grow into a regional pole of decarbonisation, while providing the basis for offshore wind development in the entire Black Sea region.

Romania also needs to pursue the strategic aim of attracting a significant share of the new supply chains that are being created across Europe’s offshore wind industry. The sector creates significant added value to the EU economy beyond just in the energy system, including in sectors such as electrical equipment, machinery, metals, construction works, telecommunications, etc. When it comes to the jobs that the offshore wind industry creates, a significant number is required for the installation, building of foundations, planning and O&M processes, which can mostly be covered with national workforce. In longer term, reasons of cost efficiency will lead to relocating part of the manufacturing chain, potentially towards Romania and the region. 

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