The offshore wind industry is warning of a break in the further development of technology if current expansion targets are not revised upwards significantly. At the 14th Hamburg Offshore Wind Conference in early April, industry representatives issued a warning that the slow progress of grid development would limit expansion targets. Current targets, they cautioned, would neither fulfil obligations under the latest climate agreement, nor ensure continuity in the development of the technology and future cost reductions.
In order to ensure continuity for companies currently involved in the offshore wind business, the European offshore market had to achieve a minimum growth of 4 GW per year; otherwise, there was a risk of job losses and erosion of expertise, said Bent Christensen, Senior Vice President of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, the joint offshore undertaking of the two manufacturers, Siemens Wind Power and Gamesa. The new company logo that appeared on Christenson's slides was just an hour old when he gave his presentation to the participants of the HOW conference. But his pride over the successful merger was laced with concern over the future of the offshore industry. After all, the 4 GW of new installations annually that Christensen cited in his assessment were just barely enough to maintain the current state of industrialisation and standardisation in manufacturing and construction. In order to drive the development that would bring down costs in the future, he said that at least 7 GW a year would be necessary.
Volker Malmen, Managing Director at Dong Energy, also said that the lower limit for further development and for the introduction of the 10 MW turbine class by 2020 was installation of at least one turbine per day. For the German market alone, he said, the figure should be 2 GW, rather than 1 GW a year in order to ensure, "unbroken future development."
Norbert Giese, Vice-President for Offshore Development at Senvion, also called for an annual volume of 4 GW in Europe. To achieve that, he said, new markets had to be developed. Giese mentioned France, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Ireland and the Baltic states as potential candidates.
Thorsten Falk underscored concerns about expansion targets as a representative of the BMWi. For him, "the source of the problems is behind the Dyke," since current grid development in the context of the previous expansion targets would not be felt “until 2025.” If the offshore industry wanted to call for higher expansion targets in the North and Baltic seas, "grid expansion would have to kick into high gear." TenneT board member Wilfried Breuer, presented similar arguments when he reminded attendees that the permitting process for offshore wind farms was far shorter than that for grid expansion.
But Jörg Kuhbier, CEO of the Stiftung Offshore Windenergie, responded is that up to now, "network expansion has been neglected." Today, he said, the energy transition, "should not take its lead from grid expansion, but rather from climate protection." He lamented the fact that renewable sources of energy were still viewed far too often through the lens of cost aspects. Communication of the social benefits of renewables, in contrast, took a backseat.