German offshore wind is set to progress in 2013, with capacity possibly reaching as much as 1.3GW by the end of the year. But as 2012 has shown, while the forecast growth looks impressive, it is from a low base level. And expansion faces a number of challenges, not least with respect to financing, grid connection, environmental protection and installation logistics, observes Dirk Briese, managing director of consultancy, trend:research. Indeed, due to grid connection delays, some projects have been postponed or put on ice by developers, among them DONG Energy, EnBW and RWE, he points out. Moreover, while the new risk liability arrangements secure the rights of wind farm operators when grid connection delays occur, financing remains a stumbling block, he adds.
Others are equally sceptical. "The business model for offshore wind does not yet exist," Georg Müller, chairman of MVV Energie, Germany's sixth largest electricity supplier to end customers, said in December. In his view, "if a special law is needed because network operators and wind station operators don't want to shoulder the risks and insurers say they will not insure, then offshore wind is still at the research and development stage."
Nevertheless, developer Windreich is demonstrating that there is a willingness to invest. It announced on 21 December that Swiss property and infrastructure group, SSN Group, had joined the investors in Global Tech 1. This followed the announcement in October that an un-named investor had agreed to acquire its Deutsche Bucht project.
Alongside the two offshore projects (Alpha Ventus and EnBW Baltic 1) totalling 108MW that are already fully on line, several larger German projects are now at the construction stage. Bard Offshore 1 had about 140MW of the planned 400MW on line at the beginning of 2013 and is expected to be completed at the end of the year. EWE and Enova's jointly-owned 108MW Borkum Riffgat project could also be fully commissioned this year, while Windreich's 400MW Global Tech 1 and WindMW's 288MW Meerwind Süd/Ost projects are also slated for commissioning by the end of 2013. Thus if all goes to plan, Germany could have around 1.3GW of offshore wind capacity operational by the end of this year.
Furthermore, construction of the 200MW first phase of Trianel's 400MW Borkum West 2 project is underway, but will not be completed before the end of 2013. RWE's 295MW Nordsee Ost project is set to be commissioned in mid-2014, while EnBW's 288MW Baltic 2 project is also planned to become fully operational in 2014.
Until now, and despite 18% growth in 2012, German offshore wind electricity generation has remained barely noticeable. Just 0.7TWh was generated last year, compared with 44TWh from onshore wind. In 2011 – a year with higher than average wind speeds – offshore output amounted to 0.6TWh, while onshore wind contributed 48TWh. But by the end of this year, the expected 1.3GW of operational offshore capacity should be capable of generating at least 5.5TWh per year, such that it starts to leave a footprint in Germany's electricity generation landscape. The offshore wind sector's achievement would then also be in line with Germany's binding Renewable Energy Action Plan, which envisages 10GW of offshore wind capacity in the North Sea and Baltic Sea by 2020.