Jostling for approval in offshore site race -- In the Baltic Sea

In a race to secure sites in German waters for potential wind development, two more companies have announced plans to develop huge wind plants in the Baltic Sea. Umweltkontor Renewable Energy, one of Germany's largest wind station developers, has proposed a 350 MW project and a relatively new company, Future Energy, also from Germany, has set its sights on an 860 MW plant.

Both projects plan to use turbines of between 3 MW and 5 MW rated capacity -- technology that as of yet only exists on paper. The proposals are slated for sites off Rügen island, which lies near the shores of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

While the announcements are seen to be overly ambitious in both time scale and technology in the infantile offshore sector, their purpose is partly to prepare for stock exchange listings and partly to beat competitors to offshore permits. Among then is Winkra Energie, which is planning a project of 200, 5 MW turbines in the Pommerainian Bay some 50 kilometres north-east of Lubmin and in waters of 20 metres. Once projects are accepted for processing by the federal shipping office, Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrografie (BSH), the developer secures exclusive rights to the location.

Future Energy and an associated firm, BEC Energy Consult, have had their application for a wind station with 172, 5 MW turbines accepted by the BSH for processing, securing their rights to the site. The site, known as Arcona Basin Southeast, lies 25 to 30 kilometres north-east of Kap Arkona, between Rügen and the Danish island of Bornholm.

"To avoid potential planning delays, we sought a location with the least possible potential for environmental or other conflicts," says Karsten Qweitzsch of Future Energy. The company's Andreas Brockmöller says it lies well away from protected areas and biosphere reservations. The site is also out of the way of existing "important bird areas," the planned Baltic Seabird Protected Areas and shipping routes. Maximum wave height in the area is eight metres, he says.

Nuclear transformer

According to Qweitzsch, the company is the first to apply for offshore electricity to be taken on to the grid of eastern German electricity company Veag. The power would be brought onshore at Lubmin, where a nuclear power station is now being decommissioned. Transformer facilities exist there for bringing 3000 MW on land, Qweitzsch says. Umweltkontor hopes to use the same facility for its proposal.

Brockmöller says construction is planned for 2005 so that electricity generation can begin in 2006. The project will cost around DEM 2.5 billion, Future Energy says. The costs of the planning phase are to be shouldered completely by BEC Energy Consult.

Once planning for the offshore project is complete, Brockmöller says, BEC Energy Consult will be merged into Future Energy. Future Energy, which was founded in January 2000, then plans to go public in 2004 to raise further funds for the wind station. "We have learned that it is unwise to use shareholder money for planning. Project development will be completed before the company gets listed to reduce shareholder risk," Brockmöller says. The two companies have plans for around 40 MW of onshore projects using wind turbines of 1-2 MW in size. So far they have just one project completed, Werbig 1, consisting of three Bonus 1 MW units in Brandenburg.

Umweltkontor, which is listed on the German bourse, plans to install 69 turbines, again with ratings of 3-5 MW, at Adlergrund, north-east of Rügen. Rotor diameters would be around 100 metres. Water depths at Adlergrund reach a maximum of 25 metres. Wind monitoring has revealed wind speeds of 8-9 m/s at a height of 55 metres. "Speeds at hub height of about 75 metres will be even better," enthuses Andreas Köster of the company.

Umweltkontor has formed a new company, Offshore Windpower Projektentwicklung (OWP), to develop its proposal. OWP is a joint venture with financiers Penta Consult & Concept of Frankfurt, which hold 46%. Umweltkontor has also founded a consortium with US turbine manufacturer Enron Wind and Belgian offshore specialists Dredging, Environmental and Maritime Engineering (DEME). Negotiations are underway with these companies to provide the heavy duty electricity equipment, says Umweltkontor. ABB Calor Emag Schaltanlagen and Alsthom Power Conversion have also been asked to join the consortium.


An application to build the wind station has been lodged with BSH. Experts are preparing a study on the biological aspects of the project and a risk analysis, Umweltkontor says, and more long term environmental studies are still needed. An offshore gravel quarry owned by DEME already operates at the site, which lies well away from the coast and nature protection areas, says Köster. DEME has a license to operate until 2030 in four areas, two of which have been leased to Umweltkontor, says Köster.

Funds will be raised in two phases. Umweltkontor plans to place a venture capital fund on the market to reap in cash for the planning and licensing phase of this and other offshore locations. The DEM 900 million needed for building the wind station will also be raised on the capital market, the company says. Umweltkontor's Leo Nöthlichs notes that the fixed payments for wind power generated offshore -- written into Germany's Renewable Energy Law -- offer investors security for their money.