Germany wants to pepper its northern seas with offshore wind turbines as part of its ambitious energy revolution. But strict laws, technology problems and multiple delays are turning the massive enterprise into an expensive fiasco. Investors and the public are losing patience.
Nothing goes according to plan. For example, in July, RWE tried to load a 550-metric-ton jacket foundation from the wharf in Cuxhaven onto an installer vessel. During loading, the elevated ferry sank into the harbor mud because the cargo was too heavy. Now the transfer has to be completely reconfigured.
The HVDC converter stations are causing the biggest problems. They consist of giant converter platforms directly adjacent to the wind farms, where they collect the alternating current generated by the turbines, convert it into high-voltage direct current and transmit it to land via long cables.
It is clear that the first wind farms will likely be complete by the end of 2013, but they still won't be transmitting any electricity to the mainland because the necessary outlets will be missing.
Delays and Risks
A battle has been raging over who should pay for the slowdowns. Tennet made an "unconditional grid connection commitment," says Assheuer.
But the company, which is owned by the Dutch government, cannot meet its obligations. According to a letter from the German government, it will cost an additional €15 billion to connect all offshore turbines in the first construction stage to the grid by 2020.
In light of these panic reports, the entire energy revolution has come to a standstill. Many next-generation wind farms have been put on hold for now. The industry is taking a wait-and-see approach, looking on to observe how the pioneers fare.
It is already clear that everything will become more expensive. The offshore operators are already paid up to 19 cents per kilowatt hour in compensation for electricity fed into the grid. It's estimated that the average household will pay an additional €50 next year for electricity because of the many green-energy subsidies.
The full effect of the calamities on the high seas will only become apparent after that -- and driving prices up even further.
Strict laws are to blame. Dahlke's agency, for example, requires an "environmental compatibility test" for each operator. But biologists are only slowing beginning to realize how harmful the wind turbines are to wildlife.
The turbines pose an enormous threat to blackbirds, thrushes and robins. New data show that the migratory birds orient themselves toward illuminated points in bad weather. As a result, large numbers of birds can end up flying into the flashing rotors.