Germany falling behind in offshore race -- Only one station fully permitted

The snail's pace of German offshore wind development has begun to worry the domestic wind industry. The world's leader in onshore wind has yet to install anything out to sea -- and it does not look like it will happen soon. Although eight pilot projects for the German North Sea have now received construction permits from federal shipping authority Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH), only one has secured all the cable and other permits needed to get the power through the coastline's nature protection areas and to shore (table).

"Germany must get going at last, or otherwise we'll be left behind by international developments. If offshore technology doesn't stem from Germany, it will come to Germany," says Norbert Giese of the Power Systems division of engineering lobby Verband Deutscher Maschinen und Anlagenbau (VDMA). "The whole sector -- that is manufacturers, component suppliers, service companies and the maritime industry -- needs first reference projects so that jobs and value added can be secured for the future."

Giese believes a recent study by the German energy agency Deutsche Energie-Agentur (DENA) on network integration of offshore wind energy gives positive signals. Because the conventional energy lobby interprets the report differently, however, it has still not been published. Giese still urges for more political support.

"The government could provide guarantees to ease the way to financing first demonstration projects to test turbines developed in Germany, including foundation and installation technology," he says. "It would also be helpful if the federal and state division of responsibilities in permitting cable routes could be overcome, and that licensing of stations and cables could be harmonised."

Within the 12 nautical mile zone, it is the individual states, or Länder, which handle cable permits -- and each state has a different application system. Only Prokon Nord's 60 MW Borkum West proposal in the North Sea has dike, water and nature protection law permits for the cable laying and connection within the 12 nautical mile zone. The cable route runs 72 kilometres via Nordeney Island and through the mudflats of the coastal Wattenmeer National Park to Hilgenriedersiel in Lower Saxony.

After some friction between developers, each wanting to take electricity to shore in the states of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, the governments and would-be offshore station operators are working on an overall plan to better co-ordinate electricity transmission to land from the several offshore pilot plants that are planned. Other companies with offshore projects slated for North Sea sites have issued letters of intent to use the "Nordeney" route for their cable links to shore.


While some developers, like Sandbank 24, intend to start building their projects next year, there is a wider view that 2007 will be the year that offshore construction work gets underway. Most companies are waiting for larger wind turbines with rated capacities of 4-5 MW to become commercially available. The larger machines promise better economic performance for projects far out to sea, which is where most of Germany's offshore development is being permitted. Last year, four 4 MW and 5 MW prototypes from Enercon, Repower and Prokon Nord were installed (Windpower Monthly, November 2004), but all of these need a two-year testing period before insurance companies and banks will be satisfied of their performance out at sea.

In the latest BSH decision, Enova Offshore Projektentwicklungsgesellschaft got a construction permit for the pilot phase of 48, 5 MW turbines to be sited 40 kilometres north of the island of Juist in depths of 30-35 metres. The firm says the pilot phase alone will cost EUR 500 million. The development has cost EUR 8 million so far, a sum raised through the Enova Offshore Projektentwicklungsgesellschaft investment fund for which around 300 investors and Enova provided equity. Enova is now concentrating on getting the cable permits.

A BSH decision on a ninth project in the North Sea is expected soon. This is for the Geo's Dan-Tysk pilot phase of 80, 5 MW turbines. Meanwhile in the Baltic Sea, developer WPD is hoping for BSH approval by the summer for the pilot phase of two projects on Kriegers Flak and for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state government approval for its Baltic 1 station as well.

So far, no projects planned for the Baltic Sea have received permits. On the contrary, two projects under development by Essent-Winkra and a subsidiary of the insolvent Umweltkontor were recently rejected by the BSH (Windpower Monthly, February 2005).

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