Offshore wind energy in Germany: growth figures for the first half of 2017

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In the first half of 2017, 108 offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity of 626 MW fed power into Germany’s national grid for the first time. Therefore as of 30 June 2017 a total of 1,055 offshore wind turbines with a total capacity to 4,749 MW are on the grid. These are encouraging half-year figures, according to Arbeitsgemeinschaft Offshore-Windenergie (AGOW), Bundesverband WindEnergie (BWE), Stiftung OFFSHORE-WINDENERGIE, VDMA Power Systems and WAB e.V.

The industry expects a total increase of approximately 900 MW for 2017 as a whole. In the first half of 2017, offshore wind energy produced 8,480 GWh of electricity, already roughly 70% of last year’s total output.

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Seize potential cost reductions, in Germany and Europe

The tendering results in Germany underscore the potential for innovative advancements and cost reductions in the offshore wind industry. For the first time, renewable energy projects were proposed that are expected to operate without EEG subsidies by the mid-2020s and can be refinanced through the electricity market. Electricity production costs have fallen considerably due to new, reliable, more powerful wind turbines with larger rotor diameters, a general increase in the scale of wind farm projects, innovations in foundation structures, better operating and maintenance programmes and more favourable financing conditions.

As a result of this paradigm shift, the next federal government will have new opportunities to exploit the potential benefits of offshore wind energy for industrial policy and the energy sector, specifically by raising minimum capacity targets to 20 GW by 2030 and 30 GW by 2035. The political and techno-logical conditions to promote the necessary grid expansion still exist. Capping offshore wind energy expansion at 15 GW (old target: 25GW) under the EEG 2014 is primarily intended to reduce the costs of the energy transition.

At European level, the offshore wind industry issued in June 2017 a ‘Joint Statement‘ calling for more ambitious expansion by 2030. The statement reaffirmed the industry’s commitment to boost Europe’s offshore wind capacity by 6 GW each year until 2030. An annual expansion of at least 4 GW would be required to cut costs. In the statement, Belgian, Danish and German government representatives acknowledged the cost reductions that have already been achieved and advocated a significant expansion by 2030. They also announced their intention to improve conditions for European invest-ment in offshore projects, networks and infrastructure.

Strengthen Germany’s position as a technology leader

The federal government’s current expansion targets, which call for annual capacity increases of 500 – 840 MW during the 2020s, would slow the growth of the offshore wind industry in Germany. A strong domestic market, stable policy framework and significant expansion are necessary if the German offshore wind industry is to maintain its technological leadership and exploit economies of scale to reduce costs. The industry, which currently employs 20,000 people, can create new jobs only if Ger-man companies continue to participate in the international expansion of offshore wind energy and compete successfully in export markets. In the short term, additional facilities must be provided for testing prototypes and innovative components in offshore projects in German waters. Regulations must be adapted to support these new developments. Only by investing in research and develop-ment and aggressively expanding its market volume can Germany strengthen its position as a techno-logy leader.

Grid expansion and sector coupling: achieving a successful energy transition

The success of the German energy transition depends, besides an increased usage of renewable energies, on expansion of the grid system and promotion of sector coupling. This means a completely transformation of our entire energy system by establishing rapidly new grid infrastructure and redu-cing carbon-intensive fossil fuels in the heating and mobility sectors.

Various technological approaches should be implemented to temporarily or permanently overcome bottlenecks in the land grid. These should include measures to improve network utilisation. In additi-on, the necessary must-run capacities should be reviewed. An increase in transparency and the int-roduction of greater competition in offshore grid connections (for example, through cost-cutting tenders) should also be considered.

Source: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Offshore-Windenergie (AGOW), Bundesverband WindEnergie (BWE), Stiftung OFFSHORE-WINDENERGIE, VDMA Power Systems and WAB e.V.