A spatial development plan (SDP) to steer design of offshore wind farm planning in Germany's part of the exclusive economic zone of the North Sea was approved this autumn by the German federal cabinet of ministers. A plan for the German part of the exclusive economic zone of the Baltic Sea will follow soon.
The North Sea plan - taking in an area marked for priority development spanning 1000 square kilometres - accommodates more than 6 GW of projects already permitted or planned for the area. This includes 11 permitted projects totalling about 3.1 GW and ten projects totalling 3.5 GW yet to receive permits. The plan also allows projects that have construction permits in place, but which are planned for just outside the 1000 -square-kilometre priority zone, to proceed. This will bring the total allowed under the North Sea SDP to 10-11 GW.
There are, however, another 46 applications for offshore wind projects in Germany's North Sea still pending approval. Significantly, the North Sea SDP does not rule out further wind development outside priority areas for wind, but the planning process for those projects lying outside the newly designated privileged areas are likely to be more involved and expensive.
Developers can maintain existing individual applications and are allowed to lodge new ones outside the offshore priority areas as long as they avoid the Natura 2000 protection areas listed under the EU Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, says the offshore planning authority Bundesamt fur Seeschifffahrt und Hydrography (BSH).
"Prioritising areas for offshore wind gives more planning security," says BSH spokesman Nico Nolte. He adds: "The chances for projects outside the priority areas are not necessarily worsened." The North Sea SDP will be reviewed in 2011, when more areas are expected to be prioritised for offshore wind. A similar German spatial development plan for the Baltic Sea is due for approval shortly. this will prioritise areas with potential for about 1.5 GW of offshore wind capacity, says Nolte.