Germany was not the first European nation to install offshore wind farms. There were plants in Denmark and England years before the first turbine was erected a mere 500 meters off the quay wall of the Rostock international port in 2005. Tracing the story of Germany’s offshore wind farms, we repeatedly found references to the independent project planning company WIND-projekt GmbH, whose portfolio includes everything from on and offshore-wind turbines to energy storage.
There were other companies of course – EnBW AB, GICON, Opus Marine, Nordic Shipyards and even Chancellor Angela Merkel – but WIND-projekt was already involved when that turbine was built at Rostock. The CEO, Carlo Schmidt, said it was “a model for future wind farms planned for the Baltic Sea.”
He was referring to Baltic 1, a proposed 21 turbine development ten miles north of the Darss-Zingst Peninsula in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. It was Germany’s first commercial wind farm in the Baltic Sea and important enough that Chancellor Angela Merkel was at the official opening. WIND-projekt had been in charge of planning and procedures. The realization & operation was conducted by EnBW.
Baltic 1 had been online for more than three years when the press junket from Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) drove onto the scene. There were five of us, four journalists and our tour guide Rob (from GTAI).
A catamaran from Opus Marine was waiting to take us out. Opus ferries people and equipment to wind projects in the Baltic and North Seas. The crew had platters of sandwiches, coffee, bottled water and coke for us.
Rob handed out seasick pills because the Baltic was a bit “wobbly.” The waves were over two meters high. Half of our group was looking greenish by the time the trip was over, but we urged the crew onward whenever they asked.
We stood behind the forward window, peering out into the haze. Our reward was a string of turbines that slowly emerged.
Opus took us right up to a couple, close enough that everyone heard the “woosh, woosh” of the blades. This was important. Though we probably saw hundreds of turbines, and at Feldheim actually went inside one, this was the only site where everyone heard the noise from a wind turbine!
This audio experience ended once the boat drew off a short distance.
The control tower was empty. One of the crew told us that they sometimes bring engineers out, but the wind farm is primarily directed remotely from onshore.
Our next stop was RH2-WKA, where WIND-projekt oversaw the development of a renewable hydrogen storage facility in conjunction with an on-shore wind farm. It was another site whose importance is underlined by the fact that it received a governmental funding and was presented to Chancellor Merkel personally with a model of the facility.
The goal of RH2-WKA is to tackle future challenges. In 2013 Mecklenburg-West Pomerania produced more electrical energy from renewable resources, than it consumed. But with the growing share of wind and solar power the task of energy storage is becoming more and more urgent. RH2-WKA is installing an electrolyses that uses the electrical energy from the neighboring wind farm to split water into H2 and O2, which can be stored in gaseous form. In times of low wind, the stored gases can then be re-electrified.
By taking load from the grid in times of strong winds, RH2-WKA is helping to balance fluctuating electricity production. This system will be crucial to secure the integration of the upcoming large-scale offshore wind parks onto the grid in the next years.
RH2-WKA went online in 2011. WIND-projekt recently presented the first results on an energy storage conference in Brussels and is currently planning the enlargement of the storage system.
Mr Heinicke of WIND-projekt mentioned that after we left he would be going to a village meeting. Mecklenburg-West Pomerania plans a law whereby neighboring villagers would be given the right to purchase up to 20% ownership of facilities like RH2-WKA. To estimate the effects of such a law, WIND-projekt is currently implementing a windfarm for which WIND-projekt will offer a partial ownership to the neighboring municipalities. So, in this case, the neighbors would not have to wait for the legislation. The offer was to be extended that evening.
The next morning we drove into Nordic Yards, where GICON is testing floating platforms for turbines.
For Uwe Husmann, “Leiter Offshore Wind,” this was an opportunity for many of Stralsund’s unemployed metal workers. He put forward the original proposal in 2010 and, after the shipyard went through bankruptcy, negotiated a deal with the new owners.
Husmann and 50 steelworkers are presently building the first foundation. After a lifetime of emphasizing production, the word is now quality. A single flaw could sink one of these platforms.
Once they go into full production mode, GICON will pump out a fully assembled platform every week. These will be towed out to the site, where turbines will be erected on top of them.
Our next stop was Sassnitz Harbour on Rügen Island. This has been called the gateway for the Baltic Sea wind industry and it was only fitting that rows of turbine columns and blades lay waiting for transport. There were seven blades that stretched out for 81.6 meters, making them the World’s longest known turbine blades. Three were being shipped to Scotland, three to Fukushima and the last one was being sent out for further tests.
The turbine blades and tower parts for Baltic 2 were also stacked there. The control tower and a number of vessels that will carry materials were moored in another part of the harbour. It seemed fitting that this was yet another EnBW project designed by WIND-projekt.
This was where we ended our tour of Germany’s Offshore Wind Farms and drove inland to see Feldheim and another sector of Germany’s renewable industry.
(Photo of Baltic 1 at top of page courtesy EnBW AB)