More wind energy at sea

Accelerated expansion More wind energy at sea

The expansion of offshore wind energy is to be accelerated. The aim is to achieve a rated capacity of offshore wind turbines of at least 30 gigawatts by 2030 and at least 40 gigawatts by 2035. By 2045, the goal is to generate at least 70 gigawatts. The Federal Cabinet has now approved the amendment to the Offshore Wind Energy Act.

Wind farm in the North Sea.

The offshore wind farms off the German coasts fed in around 27 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020.

Photo: Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images

The share of renewables in the electricity supply is to increase to 80 percent by 2030 and on an ongoing basis thereafter. Offshore wind energy is an essential building block for meeting these targets successfully. Comprehensive measures are to be introduced so as to achieve the expansion targets of 30, 40 and 70 gigawatts by 2030/2035/2045 respectively as effectively as possible. These especially concern tender structuring in relation to area use and ideas for speeding up planning and approval procedures:

  • In the case of centrally pre-assessed areas, the preliminary approval procedure is to be omitted entirely and replaced by a more expeditious planning authorisation process
  • Specifications are to be issued regarding the duration of procedures for planning approval and authorisation
  • Environmental assessments and participation rights are to be more clustered
  • Technical supervision by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency will run through the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology for all operations relating to the Offshore Wind Energy Act.
  • Offshore grid connection can in future be granted directly after the area has been incorporated in the overall site development plan, which will accelerate the award of contracts by several years.

Reducing dependence on energy imports

Wind energy at sea is expected to make a significant contribution to converting Germany’s electricity supply almost entirely to renewables and making it greenhouse-gas-neutral within less than a decade and a half. As such, expansion in this area is a key element of the Federal Government’s climate policy to restructure the energy supply.

What is more, the agreed expansion targets and volumes not only enable a significantly accelerated expansion of renewable energies, they will also reduce dependence on energy imports much more quickly. So in view of the current war in Ukraine, the rapid expansion of renewable energies makes sense both economically and geopolitically.

The Federal Cabinet has now approved amendments to the Offshore Wind Energy Act (WindSeeG). The approval of the Bundesrat is not required. 
Under the new regulations, approval by the European Commission under state aid law is required in addition to the parliamentary procedure before the first tender is issued. This is planned for the second half of the year.

Since the offshore expansion targets cannot be achieved without statutory amendments, the draft law is to be declared particularly urgent within the meaning of Article 76 (2) sentence 4 of the Basic Law. Among other things, the site development plan has to be updated by no later than the end of the year in order to be able to increase the target, but this is only possible if the increase has been enshrined in law beforehand.

Wind energy on the high seas – specific challenges faced by Germany

The pursuit of offshore energy targets poses certain challenges, not least due to Germany’s special circumstances. For reasons of nature conservation and environmental protection, and also so as not to disrupt the visual impression of the landscape along the North Sea and Baltic Sea coast, the vast majority of offshore projects in German waters are planned and constructed at a great distance from the coast.

What is more, power generation by means of offshore wind turbines is technically more complex than onshore wind energy use in many respects. This applies to the construction of the facilities in particular. Offshore development in Germany takes place more than 30 to 40 kilometres offshore in ocean depths of up to 40 metres. This results in particular technical challenges, such as anchoring the turbines in the depths of the ocean by means of foundations or connecting the wind farms to the power grid on the mainland.

Great technical potential

Since offshore facilities tend to be built closer to the coast in other countries, Germany is taking on a pioneering role here, which means there is great potential for the German offshore industry to push forward in terms of technical advancement.

Due to the greater distances from the coast, the technological challenges are greater than would be the case if the wind farms were to be built closer to the coast. This applies to the grid connection, for example, which is technically more demanding due to the greater distance from the coast, and also to the financing, which is more difficult to secure due to the higher technical risks.

Opportunities for structurally weak coastal regions

Companies in the maritime economy based near the coast stand to benefit substantially from the development of an offshore wind energy industry. In the case of structurally weak coastal regions, it can unleash considerable industrial potential, generating further added value and creating additional jobs. This applies in particular to the ports on the North Sea and Baltic Sea which serve as the base for operations on the high seas.

Offshore wind energy data
In total, some 1,500 offshore wind turbines with a total capacity of around 7,700 megawatts were connected to the grid at the end of 2020. Last year, the two offshore wind farms Merkur Borkum II (200 megawatts, North Sea) and EnBW Albatros (116 megawatts, North Sea) were fully commissioned. All turbines on the wind farms concerned are connected to the power grid and feed power into it.

According to preliminary data provided by transmission grid operators, all German offshore wind farms together fed in around 27 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. This is some ten percent more electricity than in the previous year (2019: approximately 24 billion kWh). Source: www.offshore-windindustrie.de.