Germany's ambitious 2020 National Renewable Energy Action Plan target of 10GW of offshore wind is beginning to look well out of reach. The country has brought three offshore projects fully online, totalling just 510MW. The 60MW Alpha Ventus project in the North Sea went online in 2010, the 48.3MW Baltic 1 wind farm in the Baltic Sea in 2011. Commissioning of the 400MW Bard Offshore 1 project began in 2010 and was completed in August 2013 after considerable budget and schedule overruns.
Several offshore wind farms are currently under construction, of which the 400MW Global Tech 1 project and the 200MW Borkum West 2 phase 1 could be commissioned by the end of the year.
The pace of progress should speed up in 2014-15 with five offshore wind farms scheduled for part or full commissioning: Meerwind Sud/Ost (288MW), Riffgat (108MW), Nordsee Ost (295MW), Dan Tysk (288MW), Borkum Riffgrund 1 (277MW), and Baltic 2 (288MW).
That would take Germany's offshore capacity to nearly 2.7GW, making it one of Europe's leading players in the sector, yet still leaving it well shy of its target.
The few German nearshore projects, such as Nordergrunde, are permitted by the local federal state authorities, but extensive nature protection areas along Germany's short coastlines prevent any large-scale nearshore wind development. As a result, Germany's offshore wind project developments invariably require working a long way from the coast, often in relatively deep waters, which makes construction more difficult and more expensive.
Including those already commissioned, 30 projects have been permitted for sites in the German exclusive economic zone of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, with dates set for when construction should begin. These dates can and are expected to be extended.
Opinions vary as to whether Germany will have 6GW or up to 8GW of offshore wind in operation by the end of 2020, but there is near universal agreement that the 10GW target will not be reached. Initially plagued by delays in completion of the marine cables to take the wind-generated electricity to shore, it is the support uncertainty that is now the issue. The industry hopes for swift legislation by the new German government, but might have to wait for the full revision of the Renewable Energy Act, which may not be implemented before the start of 2015.
Countering accusations of being one of the most expensive types of renewables generation, a study commissioned by the German Offshore Foundation and others, released in August 2013, found offshore wind generation costs could be reduced by one third if German developments can continue steadily over the next ten years to reach 9GW or more by 2023.
Current offshore capacity: 510MW
NREAP 2020 aim: 10GW
Realistic forecast: 6-8GW