Wind power from the sea – a new chapter for Germany
21 wind turbines with rotors 93 metres in diameter – each one taller than Cologne Cathedral – officially started rotating in May. Germany’s first commercial offshore wind farm has been opened – an event referred to by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel as the start of a new chapter in the development of renewable energies in Germany. The farm called ‘Baltic 1’ is situated 16 kilometres from the Baltic coast and will supply energy to some 50,000 homes. The power is fed along a 60 kilometre submarine cable. ‘Baltic 1’ is operated by one of the four major German energy concerns, Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW).
Offshore wind farms exploit the fact that there is nearly always wind at sea. So the plants can produce an uninterrupted supply of power. However, they are expensive and difficult to build. Anchoring them to the seafloor is a challenge, although the major problem is extending the network onshore: According to the German Energy Agency DENA, approximately 3,600 additional kilometres of cable will be required up to 2020.
Nevertheless, EnBW still believes the investment is worthwhile. The company is already working on plans for ‘Baltic 2’. 32 kilometres off the island of Rügen, it will be six times the size of its older sibling. By 2013, 80 wind turbines should be supplying electricity to 340,000 homes. EnBW has invested 1.3 billion EUR in the two Baltic farms. It is also planned to lay a cable from ‘Baltic 2’ to a Danish wind farm. By interconnecting the two power markets the operators hope to create a Baltic power network of about 5,000 wind turbines by 2030. They will then be producing as much electricity as 25 atomic power stations.
No. 3 in wind power
Ever more wind farms are appearing in the North Sea, too, off Denmark and the mouth of the Thames. They frequently use German technology or involve German enterprises, which is hardly surprising because there are already some 2,500 German companies in the wind power sector catering for 30% of the world market. When it comes to developing wind power, Germany comes in third place after China and the United States. By 2030, today’s market of approximately 30 billion EUR is scheduled to increase its turnover to 200 billion EUR per annum, according to the President of the German Wind Energy Association BWE, Hermann Albers.
Despite the success of wind power, there is still a need for development. So the universities in Oldenburg, Hanover and Bremen have bundled their research at a Centre for Wind Energy Research called ForWind. And the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology in Bremerhaven and Kassel also wants to drive the technology. The interaction between weather, terrain and rotors needs closer scrutiny, for example, in order to be able to determine wind speeds a few seconds in advance and adjust the rotors to the most advantageous position. Technologies involving carbon fibres and superconductors will have to play a bigger role in future as well if we want to increase the performance of wind farms – after all, they are supposed to become just as reliable as gas turbines.