In order to take advantage of its technological advance, the European wind industry is focused on offshore wind. Although challenging from a technical standpoint and even if not applicable to every EU country, this option enables larger developers to overcome most onshore land limitations. Since the industry thrived on subsidized premium prices paid for wind electricity in Europe, costlier offshore wind options provide justifications for sustaining high prices.
Consequently, the current research in European wind turbine designs seeks to build larger machines. Per unit installed, these are likely to limit the cost of their offshore foundations. As the power of a wind turbine is multiplied by four when its rotor diameter is doubled, added productivity can be obtained. A reduced number of wind turbines will impact maintenance costs as well. This can be particularly relevant considering their more difficult access and operations in corrosive marine environments.
Under such circumstances, neither wind turbines exports nor their integration to support the developing world's growing energy needs will be achieved. While new wind installation rates on the European continent are slowing down, less then a third of the world's 539 GW wind capacity remained on EU-grounds in 2018 (source: GWEC, WWEA).
The Sahara Trade Winds provide an ideal setting for wind technologies to expand into developing countries. At 16 GW of installed capacity Europe's higher, yet dropping offshore wind costs and a saturation to further wind developments by fossil generating capacities limits EU-markets. New wind turbine orders in Germany and Spain shifted to the USA's 88 GW and China’s staggering 188 GW wind markets. From the year 2010, China became the global wind energy leader, producing and installing approximately 50% of the world market. In 2015, China surpassed the European Union in terms of total installed capacity.
Complementary to their US and Asia expansion, wind industry transfers from Denmark, Germany and Spain underline the relevance of accessing Atlantic trade winds. From a bottom-up perspective, regionally integrated wind industries are also likely to consolidate North Africa's economic growth. As a base for large wind projects, the Sahara coastline provides an ideal ground for a capacity built-up and wind industry transfer. Based on favorable economics and the creation of local jobs, the Sahara Wind project will also facilitate its expansion in developing countries.
Chinese wind markets demonstrated that German and Danish industry transfers provided significant cost reductions. Building upon such experience, wind power generated in exceptionally good wind regions through dedicated machines, manufactured locally at lower labor costs are likely to make them more competitive.
By substantially boosting the region’s economic prospects, benefits provided by an enhanced electricity access would stabilize rather desolate areas. Within today's tumultuous context, such inclusive access becomes a security asset.
Since wind turbines represent over 80% of the Sahara Wind project's investments with 20% remaining for the HVDC line, dedicated low-cost wind turbine design enhance competitiveness. In fact, several projects of the size of Sahara Wind's (10-GW Mega Wind Farms connected to HVDC lines) are already operational in China's inner-Mongolia region. As other ones may be considered in the United States, good precedents have been set in local wind turbine components manufacturing. Such integration levels open critical debates on how to sustainably meet growing electricity needs in developing countries.