• Germany's news in English

Forgotten port bets future on wind power

The Local · 13 Jun 2011, 09:22

Published: 13 Jun 2011 09:22 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Five-hundred-tonne tripods, meant to be sunk to the sea floor to support giant wind turbines, line the quays awaiting shipment out to sea.

"Wind power is the promise of an industrial future. Business used to be stagnant," says Hans-Joachim Stietzel, scientific director of the local economic development agency.

For this port of 52,000 inhabitants, which once lived off fish factories and retirement homes, Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision late last month for Germany to renounce nuclear power by 2022 is manna from heaven.

Cuxhaven, which was losing its importance as a harbour because of the development of giant container ships that prefer ports such as Hamburg or Rotterdam, decided to take up the windpower challenge as early as 2007.

It built a specialized terminal, with roads and platforms designed to take very heavy loads, and turned sheep pastures into industrial parks.

With parliament expected to vote later this month on abandoning nuclear power and the government promising €5 billion ($7 billion) to develop offshore electricity production, Cuxhaven is eyeing a golden opportunity.

"Of course this is going to help. But we didn't wait for the government to get on with the job," says engineer Rolf Bartelheim of Cuxhaven Steel Construction, a firm that set up shop here in 2009.

Workers busy themselves around the giant tripods which will be sunk in waters from 20 to 40 metres (65 to 130 feet) deep.

The turbines will then stand 100 metres high with rotor spans of equal dimension, taller and wider than London's St. Paul cathedral.

"We have a two-to-three-year jump" on other German centres, such as Bremerhaven in the northwest, says Stietzel who believes nevertheless there will be "enough work to go around."

By 2030 Germany wants offshore wind power to provide 25,000 megawatts of power, the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactors.

Three offshore wind farms are currently operating in German waters, while some 20 more have been granted planning permission. Another 20 are planned.

Merkel recently inaugurated the country's first commercial wind farm, with 21 turbines set to supply electricity to more than 50,000 households, off the northeastern Baltic coast.

Germany has big plans for offshore "clean" energy, but it got off to a slow start compared to Britain and the Netherlands because of its very strict planning rules, which have only allowed turbines to set up in deep waters.

Story continues below…

In the North Sea, this has made everything more difficult, from setting up the turbines to connecting them to the grid.

"Because of weather and safety concerns, we're happy if we can get 85 days in the year to go out to sea to set up the wind turbines," says Bartelheim.

Financing is also a problem, he says. "The five billion promised by the state won't cover all the costs" at a time when private investors are reluctant to back such costly developments, he says.

The start-up cost of a wind farm is about €1 billion.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd