German North Sea ports wooing wind

German offshore progress might be slow compared with Denmark, Britain and Sweden, but it is thorough. Among businesses preparing for the launch of an offshore wind industry are Germany's ports, nearly all of which are competing for a slice of the action

German ports along the North Sea coast are in a strong position to grow their business on the back of the national offshore wind industry, according to a study commissioned by the Port of Husum. Two ports -- Husum in Schleswig-Holstein and Emden on the Dutch border -- already have established wind energy connections. The other serious contenders, Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven, are beginning to cautiously move in the same direction.

The Husum report, by Olav Hohmeyer, professor of energy and resources at Flensburg University, is enthusiastic. Hohmeyer forecasts that in the long term, 1.2-2.8 GW of wind energy will be built annually in the German North Sea, basing his scenario on the federal government's target of 25-36 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and growing to 50 GW by 2050. If Husum secures 30% of offshore production by 2030, Hohmeyer writes, up to EUR 1.9 billion could flow into the port for manufacture of nacelles, towers and blades and create about 3200 new jobs. Investment in necessary port expansion, estimated at about EUR 15 million, pales against the EUR 0.9-4.2 billion in regional demand that offshore business could generate.

Husum prospects

On the strength of Hohmeyer's report, Schleswig-Holstein has granted EUR 13 million for expansion of Husum port. About half of the sum will come from the EU, says Matthias Hüppauff-Jakober of regional economic support agency Wirtschaftförderungsgesellschaft Nordfriesland. Work is expected to begin on a dedicated wind energy quay, new access roads and other developments next year.

While offshore prospects played a role in the investment decision, Hohmeyer observes that port expansion is a significant precondition for maintaining the wind business in Husum and the surrounding North Friesland region. As ever-larger turbines are built, transport is becoming increasingly difficult from Denmark and from southern Schleswig-Holstein, due to the long tunnel under the Elbe River at Hamburg. Eventually, transport by sea will be the only attractive alternative, Hohmeyer writes.

Size restrictions at Husum's small harbour opened the door to a coalition rather than competition with nearby Brunsbüttel, located on the northern side of the Elbe estuary. Brunsbüttel is designated to take on transport of very large turbine components -- such as 30-square-metre, 400-tonne concrete foundations and towers. The port has a logistic advantage in the Kiel canal, which links the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. Large components manufactured in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern can be shipped from Baltic ports to Brünsbuttel for transport to offshore stations or export destinations. These may include Vestas blades from Lauchhammer, towers constructed by Schweriner Turmbau in Schwerin or components constructed in Poland, such as blades, notes Hüppauff-Jakober.

Currently, Repower Systems and Vestas have manufacturing facilities at or near Husum, while NEG Micon has its German service and maintenance headquarters just outside town. NEG Micon has signalled that maintenance of turbines installed in the German North Sea will be carried out from Husum, says Hüppauff-Jakober. Repower has declared that assembly of its planned 5 MW offshore turbine will be located at Husum, and a prototype is to be installed at Brunsbüttel in spring; a Schleswig-Holstein grant of EUR 1.5 million for development of the unit was coupled to a condition that series production take place in Husum Port.

The other most serious port progress is happening at Germany's second largest harbour after Hamburg, Bremerhaven. Here, the state of Bremen has granted EUR 12.8 million to develop logistics and infrastructure, hoping to attract turbine manufacturers and foundation and tower builders. Work is to start this year, says Jan Rispens of the Bremen/Bremerhaven Wind Energy Agency. His organisation has set up a network of 130 companies in the wind and maritime branch to facilitate offshore business. "Several Bremen-based companies are already active in offshore development in Ireland and the Netherlands, and the Bremen Logistics Group handles export of turbines for companies such as Nordex," he says.

Bremerhaven's closest competitor is Cuxhaven, with attractive water depths of 15 metres unaffected by tidal flow. Like Bremerhaven, however, Cuxhaven has no local turbine manufacturer. It is hoping that its "unique selling point" will be a new Offshore and Certification Centre, a test station on land for up to five offshore turbines exceeding 3 MW in size, says Jürgen Enkelmann of the Cuxhaven town council. Regional planning for the facility should be completed by the end of 2003. The wind test site is part of a Cuxhaven master plan for offshore development drawn up in consultation with local wind developer Plambeck Neue Energie and other wind companies.


"The master plan concluded it makes sense to pre-assemble as much of an offshore turbine on land as possible, so port facilities must be developed to handle very large structures and weights," Enkelmann says. A 50 hectare site has been designated for such development. The plan estimates that in the longer term, state investment of EUR 70-100 million could be needed, but funds have not yet been designated by Lower Saxony. "In view of current economic problems, this could be really difficult," says Wolfgang Horn of the Lower Saxony economy ministry.

Meanwhile at Emden, plans are underway for long term investment of EUR 45-65 million, assuming Lower Saxony approves the spending its state budget. The Ems Ports Agency and Stevedoring company began handling German Enercon turbines for export at the start of 2001 and it sees a new chance for expansion with offshore wind energy. The town has up to 120 hectares available for industrial development. Although seeking to attract other wind companies, its allegiance to Enercon is evident: two Enercon 4.5 MW E112 machines are planned to be installed at the Wybelsumer Polder, with another possible eight machines on the way. Developer Ingenieurgesellschaft für Energieprojekte also hopes to install an E112 in the Ems estuary for a research project on sea water desalination.