Since the last time we looked at the status of Germany’s offshore wind industry only two years ago in July 2014, the number of operational offshore wind turbines has jumped from just 141 capable of producing 616MW to 835 grid connected turbines capable of 3,552MW in July 2016 and another 54 installed turbines not yet connected to the grid able to produce 324MW. Another statistic is the 142 foundations placed waiting for tower and nacelle installation. By the 31st December this year a further 700MWs are expected to have been added to the German grid.
These are massive numbers but when we look further into the future to see if this growth will be maintained in 2017 and beyond it appears that only modest growth can be guaranteed. The 2020 target of 6.5MW looks possible. The recently announced reformed Renewable Energy Act EEG) has new changes in the auctioning system and limits the annual growth although the expansion planned until 2030 stays at 15,000MW. This will be allotted at the rate of 500MW for 2020 and 2021, 700MW for the three years, 2022 to 2025, thereafter it will be 840MW each year. All of which when compared to the past two years is, indeed, modest.
How has the growth of the past two years happened? What were the conditions that brought this leap from 141 turbines to 835 turbines?
2014 & 2015 – two years of growth
By the end of 2014 there were eleven offshore wind farms in the German sector of the North Sea either under construction or in a state of partial feed in or completed. The two early wind farms alpha ventus and Bard 1 had been joined by Borkum Riffgat and Meerwind Sud/Ost and were fully operational. There were 7 other wind farms under construction or partially feeding the grid. These were Dan Tysk, Global Tech 1 and Nordsee Ost partially feeding in the grid and Butendiek, Borkum West II, Borkum Riffgrund and Amrunbank West 1 which were under construction.
In the Baltic, EnBW Baltic I was operational and connected while EnBW Baltic II was under construction.
By 31st December 2015, one year later, nine wind farms had been completed and commissioned in full operation. Dan Tysk, Global Tech 1 and Nordsee Ost were by then fully operational, and they were joined by Amrunbank West 1, Baltic II, Borkum Riffgrund 1, Butendiek, Trianel Windpark Borkum. Four more had started construction, Gode Wind I, Gode Wind 2, Nordsee One and Sandbank.
2017 and beyond
Plans for three wind farms had been completed and construction planned to start in 2016 for Wikinger in the Baltic, and Nordergründe and the 400MW Veja Mate in the North Sea. Today foundations at these wind farms are being placed as planned. At Wikinger 29 jackets, each with four piles, are due to be placed for the Adwen 5MW turbines, a further 41 are scheduled for delivery later. MPI Enterprise is working on placing monopile foundations at Nordergrunde for the 18 Senvion 6.15MW turbines. And finally at Veja Mate the largest monopiles that have ever been made for wind turbines, being placed by Seajacks Scylla, the largest WTIV ever built. The 67 Siemens SWT-6.0-154 turbines are planned to be in full operation by the end of 2017.
The well documented grid connection problems must take the major share of the responsibility for such a large number of projects being completed in two years. From 2013 delays connecting the transformer stations to the grid had held up projects throughout the whole of the German sector. Only in the last twelve months has this eventually functioned as it had been designed and this state of affairs has resulted in the exceptional number of completions and connections. An average installation rate of just over 700MW per year is perhaps to be seen, not just as a modest amount, but a sustainable amount of work until 2030.
However now the question that is being asked is whether the average of just over 700MW per year is sufficient to maintain cost reduction and the overall manpower required for meeting the 15,000MW target. The German Government must take the responsibility to ensure that the infrastructure remains a reliable programme for the long term. In 2021 new wind farm growth will only be possible in the Baltic Sea, due to grid connection infrastructure limitations in the North Sea. Baltic Sea connections to the coast must therefore be ensured if the grid is to be able to replace the feed from decommissioned nuclear power to Southern Germany. Any other snag anywhere in the overall programme could result in the target for sub ten cents per Kw/H for a period of 20 years not being achieved by the time new projects are to be settled.
Giles Dickson, Chief Executive Officer of WindEurope, said in July about the amended Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG 2016), “(in the German offshore wind sector)… there is a lack of stability in the volumes. The buildout rate after 2020 will be uneven as the auctions vary in size from year to year. The volumes are also less ambitious than other Member States such as the UK, which has committed to 1GW a year to 2030 and the Netherlands, which will tender 1.4GW this year and then a further 700MW each year to 2020.”
He continued, “The shift from feed-in tariffs to tenders is a trend we are seeing across Europe. Germany’s move was to be expected as Member States bring their support schemes into line with the European Commission’s state aid guidelines.”
The German based manufacturing and servicing companies in the European offshore wind sector are so dominant that any uncertainty in orders being received or placed by these companies could be sufficient to make the whole industry wobble. Consequently Brexit is another situation which may cause problems for the delicate balance in the future. Siemens’ current investment on the River Humber in Hull is safe at the moment but will further investment follow? Will the UK be able to maintain the growth experienced to date? The increasing number of larger wind farms is vital for the cost reduction targets. Taking even just a part of the huge potential UK market away will cause problems throughout the whole industry.
In the future there are over 100 projects in the German sector, either already approved with licences granted or others still in the application phase. Other projects are still working on the licensing procedure. Some approved licences have altered their original plans since having the licence awarded. For example fewer and larger wind turbines or just a lower output. Some of the most recent news concerning wind farm projects listed as being licenced for approval in the German focus edition of Offshore WIND 2 years ago and not already mentioned above is listed below.
Albatros Offshore Wind farm
EnBW is examining basic economic and technical conditions for a possible implementation of project and has thus recently initiated tenders for the supply of wind turbines, foundations and offshore substation, as well as inter-array cabling. The initial project had an approval for the installation of 79 wind turbines of the five to seven MW rating class. However, due to legal limit for the grid connections related to the expansion of offshore wind power by 2020, Albatros now has a grid connection approval for 116.8MW. Instead of 79, the wind farm would now feature 19 turbines.
Arkona Offshore Wind Farm
A modified project plan incorporated 60 turbines instead of 80 because of the switch to the larger 6MW class has been adopted. Therefore a new geotechnical survey has been required as some of the drilling and sounding locations no longer coincided with the new turbine locations and that most of the existing exploration profiles could not be directly applied to the new locations. The project remains on schedule despite changes to the wind farm design.
Borkum Riffgrund 2
On 24 June, DONG Energy made the investment decision to build the 450MW Borkum Riffgrund 2, with expected full production in H1 2019. With this decision, DONG will reach a total installed capacity from offshore wind of 6.7 GW by 2020.
Deutsche Bucht Offshore Wind Farm
Van Oord and Highland Group Holdings Ltd. have signed a cooperation agreement for the development, financing and construction of the 252MW German project. Financial close is scheduled for the first half of 2017, the offshore installation is due to start in H2 2018 and commissioning planned for 2019. Van Oord will be responsible for the engineering, procurement and construction of the foundations, inter-array cables and the offshore substation.
EnBW Hohe See
Canadian energy company Enbridge has won a 49.9 per cent share of the 497MW wind farm in an auction. The wind farm is being developed by the German energy company EnBW, for whom finding a co-investor was a pre-requisite for making the final investment decision on the €2 billion project by the end of the year. This is the third offshore wind-related project for Enbridge in Europe.