German utility dips toes offshore

E.on Energy Project, a small unit in the giant E.on Energy Group of Germany, has acquired 50% of an offshore wind power venture from wind developer Rennert Offshore of Müden. The price paid for Amrum Bank West has not been disclosed, though the deal was signed last month, says Thomas Weber, head of E.on Energy Project. Amrum Bank West is to comprise 72 turbines with a capacity rating of 3-5 MW.

"Optimistically, we hope for a construction licence by the end of 2002 but it could take another year," says Weber. The licence must come from the federal shipping office which is responsible for development in offshore waters outside the 12 mile limit. "We hope to have all 72 turbines authorised. A project with less turbines will hit economic difficulties," he adds. "Grid connection is a bigger problem than getting the construction licence," Weber notes. "You can't formally begin the application to the state authorities for a licence for the cable through the 12 sea-mile zone until you have got the construction licence," he says.

He declines to state the cost of the project, though notes that offshore wind costs are generally quoted at DEM 350,000-400,000 (EUR 179,000-204,500) for each installed kW of capacity. It is not yet known if Amrum Bank West will pay for the sea cable to Brunsbüttel alone or jointly with Winkra Energie, which is planning an offshore project with sites north and south of the Rennert cluster.

"Whether we use cable for alternating current or a high voltage direct current cable also plays a role. Our project with 220-360 MW on its own could use the AC alternative," he says. Weber declines to comment on whether the Viking Cable undersea project -- planned by a joint venture of E.on Energie and the Norwegian Stattkraft utility between Brunsbüttel and Norway -- could play a role.

E.on's offshore wind activities do not stop at Rennert. "We are interested in investing in other offshore projects, primarily but not exclusively at North Sea sites because wind speeds are better there and because the Baltic Sea projects all feed into the grid operated by Veag, a competitor. Wind energy is interesting for us in reducing CO2 emissions for climate reasons," Weber says.

Rennert Offshore is not to be confused with an entirely separate onshore wind developer and operator, Rennert Energieprojekte of Meinersen, which currently operates 15 turbines (10 MW).

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