German offshore expectations left at sea -- Another year, another broken plan

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Hopes were that back in the autumn Germany would witness operation of its first truly offshore turbines in territorial waters with part commissioning of the Alpha Ventus 60 MW test station being developed by Deutsche Offshore Testfeld und Infrastruktur (DOTI) on a site 43 kilometres north of the island of Borkum in the North Sea. Months into 2009, however, operation of the plant is still a way off. Yet Germany's wind sector is still optimistic that offshore projects will slowly move out of the starting blocks this year, with possible completion of the Alpha Ventus wind farm by December and work due to begin this year on other projects with a combined capacity of nearly 1 GW.

Vying to reach the finish line first are four commercial projects all being developed by German companies: Energiekontor's 90 MW near-shore Nordergründe project in the North Sea; the 400 MW Bard Offshore 1 project by Russian-backed Bard Group using its own turbines; Wetfeet Offshore, Windenergy's 400 MW Global Tech 1; and EnBW Systeme Infrastruktur Support's 50 MW Baltic 1 project in the Baltic Sea.

Bad weather was blamed for the delay of the Alpha Vestus launch, stopping installation of tripod foundations for the six Multibrid 5 MW turbines at the site and stalling the laying of undersea cables. Multibrid also says that Alpha Ventus' status as a pilot project is slowing progress, with particular complexities arising from control by multiple institutional supporters. Developer DOTI is a joint venture set up by German utilities EWE and E.ON Climate & Renewables, as well as Sweden's Vattenfall Europe. Repower is supplying the project's other six, 5 MW machines.

Big pipeline

Compared with last year's gloom, the outlook is somewhat sunnier for 2009. Turbine delivery for the Nordergründe project, to use 18 Repower 5 MW machines, is scheduled for 2009 with commissioning due in 2010 or 2011. Bard Engineering says it is well advanced with its Bard Offshore 1 project using 80 Bard 5 MW turbines, around 100 kilometres north-west of Borkum. The project is permitted and the company plans to start installation this spring. Wetfeet Offshore, too, expects to start construction in 2009 of 80, 5 MW turbines at its Global Tech 1 project, to be completed in two phases by 2013. The connection to shore will be by a cable link already under construction by transmission system operator E.ON Netz. And in early 2009, Vattenfall Europe Baltic Offshore Grid ordered equipment and components totalling EUR 100 million for the offshore and onshore cable to link Baltic 1.

Offshore wind projects currently passing through Germany's permitting process total 43.4 GW. Energy agency Deutsche Energieagentur (DENA) lists 70 projects in the North Sea alone, either awaiting or having received approval. Twenty, totalling 15.5 GW, have approval, with 50 others totalling 20.3 GW in the approval process. Nine additional projects in the permitting phase are not included in the public figures and one project, Borkum West 2, is listed as pending approval though it was in fact approved in 2008. In the Baltic Sea, six projects totalling 2 GW have approval, while another six totalling 5.6 GW are waiting for a decision.

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