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Europe's $57 billion plan to put windmills in the ocean

Though questions remain about how to bring electricity to shore, Europe sees offshore wind power as a crucial component in its effort to reduce carbon emissions.

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Wind is the fastest growing renewable energy in Europe – making up a third of new energy here, with 20 turbines added every working day in 2008, according to EU statistics.

What the European wind energy industry now wants is to expand – offshore. Ocean winds are a stronger and more predictable form of energy than the ones on land, and the industry is pushing a $57 billion investment to allow broad-winged turbines to spin at sea.

Offshore wind is "absolutely" a significant new resource, argues Walt Patterson, an associate at Chatham House and author of "Keeping the Lights On," adding that "the big question mark is not sticking the stuff in the ocean, but how to get the electricity ashore."

A report released in Stockholm Monday by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) argues that offshore turbines could provide 10 percent of Europe's energy by 2020 – avoiding some 200 tons of C02 emissions.

Currently, 11 sets of the wind-powered turbines are circling off Europe's shores, with 21 under construction, mostly in Great Britain. At the moment they only contribute about .02 percent of Europe's electricity needs.

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