Playing Catch-Up Leads Germany to OW Turbine Installation Record

Germany connected 546 offshore wind turbines with a total capacity of 2,282.4 megawatts to the grid in 2015, a record unlikely to be beaten any time soon as it was based on ”the catch-up effects of grid connections,” the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) said in a release.

Image source: Fraunhofer IWES (Illustration)

Further 41 wind turbines with 246 megawatts of power were fully erected in the past year, but are not yet feeding in to the grid.122 foundations were build offshore in 2015, for wind turbines to be installed in 2016. Additional capacity of around 700 megawatts is forecast for 2016.

The total number of turbines connected to Germany’s grid by 31 December 2015 was 792, with a combined capacity of 3,294.9 megawatts.

These figures have been published by Deutsche WindGuard in its Status of Offshore Wind Energy Development in Germany, commissioned by the Working Group for Offshore Wind Energy (AGOW), BWE, the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation (SOW), VDMA Power Systems and the German Wind Energy Agency (WAB).

The offshore wind industry considers the unusually high level of expansion over the past year to be an exceptional phenomenon, BWE said. This is due to problems and delays with the completion of offshore grid connections since 2013 that could only be resolved last year.

The industry considers reliable, continuous expansion as a basis for more climate protection and value creation more important in the long term than any one-off records. To achieve such continuity it is necessary that the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) 2016 and the Offshore Grid Development Plan (O-NEP) 2025 are properly coordinated, according to BWE.

Crucial for the design of the future tendering system will be what the transition and start phases up to the mid-2020s look like, during which the tendering process will be introduced. They must be sensitively designed to conform with industry needs in terms of volume, frequency and duration. It is also necessary to set a transitional period of at least four years and have more than one call for tenders during this period.

Something that is also problematical when creating a tendering design for offshore wind energy is the threatened withdrawal of planning permission without adequate compensation. This would question the legal certainty for developed projects and severely limit planning security also for future investments.

In order to avoid grave fluctuations in the expansion of offshore wind energy with stoppage phases and record years like 2015, the Offshore Grid Development Plan (O-NEP) 2025 must also take the offshore wind energy expansion into consideration sufficiently and in good time. The first draft by the transmission system operators for O-NEP 2025 must at least be adjusted to the key points of the EEG 2016, and should for grid capacity take into account the expansion targets, including adequate safety buffers. This is necessary in order to ensure the continuity of expansion.

The offshore wind industry stands shoulder to shoulder with the onshore wind industry in rejecting the BMWi’s formula, whereby the expansion volume of onshore wind energy would be used as a volatile correction factor for the expansion of renewable energy. Onshore wind energy would be capped according to the formula, when other technologies, like offshore wind energy, meet their targets. The formula has strongly unsettled the renewables sector. “All technologies are dependent on long term planning and reliable targets,” emphasise the industry associations.

“The key points set by the German Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) for the EEG 2016 establish an intermediate expansion target of 11,000 megawatts in 2025. This would mean an annual expansion of bare 700 megawatts, but it will take a continuous annual expansion volume of at least 900 megawatts from 2021 onwards to create a basis which would make it possible to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy, secure value creation and industrial production in Germany, and make a long term, effective contribution to security of supply,” BWE said.