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ENERGY

Germany opens Baltic Sea’s largest wind park

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday officially opened a massive wind farm in the Baltic Sea, calling it a project of "national significance" for Germany's "energy transition" towards renewables.

Germany opens Baltic Sea's largest wind park
A view of the wind park in Sassnitz, Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania. Photo: DPA

Here are three things to know about the Arkona wind park ahead of the political festivities.

Baltic's largest wind park

Arkona's 60 turbines tower out of the Baltic between the German island of Rügen and the Swedish shoreline to the north.

Erected in just three months last year, they are already supplying 385 megawatts of electricity — enough for around 400,000 family homes.

SEE ALSO: Renewable energy production in Germany reaches new high

French energy provider Engie has signed a contract to buy electricity for
four years from operator OWP Arkona, a joint venture between Germany's Eon and Norway's Equinor.

Electricity will be routed through a French-built substation whose 150 kilometres of cables link up the wind generators.

Engineers affectionately dubbed the hardware “the multi-socket adaptor” after the familiar household gadget.

Tuesday's political inauguration with Merkel, French energy transition minister Francois de Rugy and his Norwegian counterpart Kjell Borge Freiberg is a signal of cooperation just weeks before European Parliament elections.

The project showcased “the German contribution, also the contribution of highly developed industrial nations to developing renewable energy,” Merkel said, thanking both France and Norway for their involvement.

“If you look at the historical responsibility that we have, since we emitted a lot of carbon dioxide into the air, it's a question of justice and of development cooperation” to nurture climate-friendly technology for others to adopt, she added.

 'Energy transition' on back foot?

Germany had long been seen as a pioneer in the switch to renewable energies, but Merkel's 2011 decision to exit nuclear generation after the Fukushima disaster knocked the country back.

Rather than emissions-free fission plugging the gaps left by variable output from wind and sun, Berlin has had to fall back on intensely polluting brown coal and other fossil sources.

Viewing the Arkona wind park by boat. Photo: DPA

Today, renewables account for 38 percent of Germany's energy mix, and are slated to hit 65 percent by 2030.

The project showcased “the German contribution, also the contribution of
highly developed industrial nations to developing renewable energy,” Merkel said, thanking both France and Norway for their involvement.

“If you look at the historical responsibility that we have, since we emitted a lot of carbon dioxide into the air, it's a question of justice and of development cooperation” to nurture climate-friendly technology for others to adopt, she added.

“In 2025, we will be well above the 40 to 45 percent target for renewable energy in Germany,” Merkel said in her weekly video podcast Saturday.

But the federal government has missed its targets in the past, giving up last year a goal to reduce greenhouse emissions 40 percent compared with 1990 levels by 2020.

SEE ALSO: Is Germany the green leader it's hyped up to be?

On land, Germany's much-lauded “Energiewende” (energy transition) policy is struggling, with subsidies for wind turbines on the way out and the cost of transmitting electricity to consumers high.

One kilowatt-hour (kWh) costs 30 euro cents, or twice as much as in neighbouring France, still well supplied with electricity from nuclear plants.

From land to sea

While land-based turbines may be running out of puff, Germany has been building them at sea for 10 years — despite initial scepticism.

Observers at first warned of high costs, and upsets like storms or sunken windmills plagued the early attempts.

But costs have been squeezed and techniques improved in the meantime, with 20 percent of Germany's wind energy now coming from the sea.

North Sea and Baltic wind parks boast more than 1,300 windmills with a capacity of around 6.4 gigawatts.

Importantly, seaborne wind power is less vulnerable to Nimbyism, or “not in my backyard” complaints from locals about spoiled views, noise or dead birds.

Environment groups have warned about risks specific to the maritime generators, with birds still falling victim to them and the noise of the rotors tormenting some sea mammals, such as porpoises.

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ENERGY

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.

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