German TSO Ups Offshore Wind Grid Connection Investments

German electricity transmission system operator (TSO), 50Hertz, will increase investments in the infrastructure required for the transport of renewable energies, with one of the focus areas being grid connections for large offshore wind farms in the Baltic and the North Seas.

Illustration; 50Hertz

50Hertz said it wanted to boost the connection capacity for offshore wind farms from around 1 GW today to more than 7 GW in 2030 and that it plans to invest up to EUR 5.6 billion in overhead power lines, land and submarine cables, and substations over the next five years, almost twice as much as it was invested in the past five years.

While currently the German TSO feeds wind power from four Baltic Sea offshore wind farms totalling around 1 GW of capacity into its onshore grid, by 2030 it plans to grid-connect additional offshore wind farms to be built between Rügen and the Danish island of Bornholm, off the Darß and, for the first time, in the North Sea.

Overall, this means an additional total capacity of over 6,000 MW of offshore wind power that can be fed into the grid, 50Hertz said, adding that new overhead lines and underground cables were also required on land to transport renewable electricity. 

“The legislation now initiated by the German government to accelerate the expansion of renewable energy plants is important. Also to reduce dependence on imported energy sources in the medium and long term”, said Stefan Kapferer, CEO of 50Hertz.

“However, politicians must not forget that the energy from wind and photovoltaic plants must also be transported to the centers of consumption. Legislative activities must therefore also include measures that accelerate the urgently needed grid expansion”.

The Grid Development Plan 2035, approved by the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) last year, envisages around 500 kilometres of additional network reinforcement and expansion measures in eastern Germany and Hamburg by 2035, including another high-voltage direct current (HVDC) link between Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the North Frisian coast.

“To this end, 50Hertz and TenneT want to build an innovative hub for direct current in the Heide area that can receive and distribute offshore and onshore wind power. This electricity will flow to consumption centres in southern Germany via, for example, the SuedOstLink, which has already been submitted for planning approval, and the SuedOstLink Plus, which has yet to be approved”, 50Hertz sated. 

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The TSO emphasised that faster approval processes, better-equipped authorities, and a focus on the recruitment of skilled workers are required to enable realising these grid expansion projects more quickly, and added that the expansion of renewables also needs to be stepped up, with a balanced development of photovoltaic, and onshore and offshore wind power for a secure power supply based on renewable energies.

Investment increase that 50Hertz now announced is also being driven by a forecast sharp rise in demand for electricity in its own network area.

“This will arise because more and more existing industries are decarbonizing their processes and new, energy-intensive companies will settle, due to the existing high share of renewables in electricity consumption in the 50Hertz area. The increasing electrification of the transport and heating sectors will also lead to higher electricity consumption”, 50Hertz stated.

The TSO cited its current studies which predict a 30 to 40 per cent increase in electricity demand in the grid area by 2030. In 2021, electricity consumption in the eastern German territorial states, Berlin and Hamburg has already risen by three per cent year-on-year to 103 TWh, 50Hertz said.