Hamburg is the gateway for Germany’s Offshore Wind Industry


For a quarter of a century, HusumWind has hosted one of the World’s largest wind power conferences. This year the conference was held in Hamburg. As might be expected, there were some hard feelings. A PR professional approached my table of North American journalists, in a Hamburg restaurant. He points out that while there are only around 60 wind turbines installed in the city, there are more than 800 in Nordfriesland (which Husum is part of) and 3,100 in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein (which Nordfriesland is part of). It did not take much to uncover the reasons for the switch in venues. More than 1,200 companies from 30 countries will be displaying their products and projects at this year’s event. Even the lady manning Husum’s booth admitted this was to large an event for Husum. Hamburg is the gateway for Germany’s offshore wind industry and a leading center for renewable technology.

  • WindEnergy Hamburg 2014 Halle A1 - Foto HMC/ Michael Zapf (Z)
Mayor Olaf Scholz,
Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz, who took office the year Hamburg was declared Europe’s Green Capital (2011) – Roy L Hales photo

“Hamburg is Europe’s second largest port and is considered the gateway to Asia,” said Mayor Scholz.

He identified the renewable energy sector as one of the key areas for the 1,200-year-old city’s prosperity.

According to Hamburg and the Metropolitan Region, it is “the leading foreign trade center in Germany” and home to 1,980 green technology companies with 33,400 employees.

The city currently hold approximately 5,000 “employers in the wind industry.” This number is expected to double, with the expansion of Germany’s offshore wind facilities.

“Hamburg has firmly established itself as a leading global location for wind energy,” said Jan Rispens, Managing Director of the Renewable Energy Hamburg Cluster Agency. “In the wake of the growing offshore wind energy market in Germany, Hamburg has developed a remarkable force of attraction, drawing companies with management, sales and product capabilities to our city.”

Nearly all the leading international wind companies have offices in Hamburg. Nordex SE, Senvion SE are headquartered there. The Offshore divisions of Siemens, Vattenfall, and E.ON all work out of Hamburg. Vestas, Dong Energy and Gamesa are among the companies with sales offices.

Canal in Hamburg - Roy L Hales photo
Canal in Hamburg – Roy L Hales photo

The city’s academic community adds research and training programs. The University of Applied Sciences is building “Energy Campus Hamburg.” Hamburg University of Technology (Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg, or TUHH) has expanded, creating new degree programs and adding professorial chairs.

Though only about 2% of the world’s wind farms are currently offshore, this is the industry’s most promising sectors.

“Offshore wind farms present special challenges for plant builders, project designers and service providers,” according to one of the conference press releases. “But they deliver power practically all the time, 24 hours a day, on an average of 340 days a year.”

Another handout mentioned uncertainty because of recent legislation:

“Grid connection is still the biggest challenge, wrote Alexander Dlouhy of Osbourne Clarke. “Offfshore wind plants partially suffer from delays; the planned north-south-route is challenging due to mandatory involvement of citizens on local and regional level.”

I made inquiries about the European wind industry’s environmental issues.

An innovative solution to traffic congestion - Roy L Hales photo
An innovative solution for traffic problems – Roy L Hales photo

There is a problem with bird fatalities in the UK, where many wind farms are sited on bird migration routes. At least one wind farm has been closed down. My informant, an employee from one of the British companies, said a lot of puffins and gannets have been killed, but she was not aware of any endangered species.

Someone from Germany’s Baltic 1 said they do not have this problem.

A professor from TUHH was more concerned about the underwater noises made by pile driving. They can be fatal to  harbour porpoises. The latest protection lower the sound by 10  to 16 decibels. He is not certain that is adequate. There is no problem after construction is finished.  The noise issue should be less problematic with Baltic 2, whose turbines  will sit on floating platforms.

We also discussed the negative effect on-land wind turbines reputedly have on humans. The professor admitted this is a problem, but said most scientists no longer think of this in terms of decibels. The discussion currently revolves around the “wooshing” sound made by the blades. He noted that most complaints come from people opposed to the industry. I did not think to ask whether they had been opposed before the turbines were erected.

This question was to take on a surrealistic aspect in the days that followed. I saw hundreds of wind turbines, but only heard two.

Staring up at the giant 200 meter Nordex Turbine at Hamburg Wasser - Roy L Hales photo
Staring up at the giant 200 meter. 3 MW, Nordex Turbine at Hamburg Wasserworks – Roy L Hales photo

One of them was at Hamburg Wasser. The 200-meter-high Nordex turbine structure is deployed in the city. The water treatment plant was already producing biogas and this recent addition enables it to produce 20% more energy than it needs. This is expected to help bring in revenues (after all expenses are paid) of €900,000 per year. The group I was with came close enough to look inside the turbine’s door, but I am the only one who thinks he heard whirling blades amidst the other ambient noises.

The wind rotors on top of the Greenpeace building (top of page) were not moving wind we visited.  Though it was a windy day, the batteries were full and there  was no need for energy. According to our guide, this could be one of the most sustainable building in Europe. It combines efficiency with low consumption and energy produced by geothermal, PV solar and wind rotors.

Want to know the Greenpeace building’s biggest problem? – Getting people to stop opening the windows during the winter!

An as yet to be developed section of HafenCity Hamburg, viewed from the top of the Greenpeace building - Roy L Hales Photo
An as yet to be developed section of HafenCity Hamburg, viewed from the top of the Greenpeace building – Roy L Hales Photo

The Greenpeace building is in HafenCity Hamburg, the largest urban development in Europe.  Around 157 hectares of the former harbour district  – 40% of of the city’s core – is being transformed into a unique mix of parks, promenades, living, leisure and working areas. Construction began in 2003 and could continue for another decade.

No description of Hamburg’s “green” aspects would be complete without mentioning HafenCity’s hydrogen station.  It is said to be Europe’s largest and owned by the utility Vattenfall. A number of Hamburg’s city buses are hydrogen powered.

But we really came for the Wind Conference.

“From a niche product in the 90’s, the industry has developed into a hallmark for German machine engineering. The German Wind energy market is an industry leader that through prototypes has created paths to market launches in Germany, Europe and the World,“ said Sigmar Gabriel, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy.  “For decades to come the emphasis that has been set by the processes of the energy revolution and the accompanying expansion of wind energy on land and sea will be central. This is the so called beast of burden of the German energy revolution.”

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hamburg Wind Fair - Roy L Hales photo
Ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hamburg Wind Fair – Roy L Hales photo

Mayor Scholz was a celebrity at the fair’s ribbon cutting the following morning.

A crowd of photographers followed him as he visited every booth.

The Wind Fair was a time for corporations to reveal their latest products. A few highlights:

  • Gamesa, its Joint-Venture partner Areva and the German engineering consultancy aerdyn (SCD) told visitors about their giant 8MW turbines.
  • GICON has a floating platform suitable for depths of between 20 and 500 meters. A proto-type sporting a 2.3 Siemens turbine will be deployed in the Baltic by May 2015.
  • General Electric unveiled a new 2.5 MW turbine, with a battery storage option, for sites with low to medium wind speeds
  • ROMO Wind has developed a new technology that measures wind speed and direction than has previously been possible

ROMO Wind signed a €1.35 million deal  at WindEnergy Hamburg.  Vattenfall Nordic is purchasing 69 turbines, which will be deployed in Denmark and Sweden.

The First HusumWind conference - taken from a photograph at the Husum booth
The First HusumWind conference – taken from a photograph at the Husum booth

Next year’s conference will go back to Husum on September 15-18, 2015. The two cities have agreed to take turns hosting.  HusumWind will continue as a smaller, German event. Hamburg will host an international conference held every second year.

The PR professional who approached us in that Hamburg restaurant is concerned that, in time, the Wind Conference will take root in Hamburg and HusumWind will become a memory.  He argued that it is THE conference in Husum, something cherished, but just another event in Hamburg.

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