Germany is focusing on rapid offshore wind energy development to decarbonise its energy systems as part of its energy transition, also known as Energiewende, and ensure energy security in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, which has had a significant impact on the entire European Union. The country aims to increase the share of renewable energy in power consumption to at least 80 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2035 (compared to around 49 per cent at the end of 2022).
Offshore wind will play a key role in achieving these targets. In addition to economies of scale and technological advancements that make it a competitive option, offshore wind avoids the increasing acceptance issues that the expansion of renewable energy on land faces. The aim is to almost quadruple Germany’s offshore capacity, from 8 GW at present to 30 GW by 2030, as per the amended Windenergie-auf-See-Gesetz or WindSeeG Act or Offshore Wind Energy Act, released in July 2022.
The act has also raised the offshore wind target from 40 GW to at least 70 GW for 2045 and set a new goal of 40 GW by 2035. In November 2022, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection or Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz (BMWK) signed an agreement with the northern German states – Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen and North Rhine-Westphalia – and three transmission system operators (TSOs) responsible for offshore wind grid connections – 50Hertz Transmission GmbH, Amprion GmbH and TenneT Transmission GmbH – to increase the country’s 2035 offshore wind target to 50 GW. The agreement includes measures for designating areas at sea, promoting sustainable development, setting concrete timetables, and formulating a plan for efficient coordination and allocation of resources to fast-track the permit processes. The TSOs are expected to coordinate with the authorities and take the necessary steps to achieve the new targets.
The revised targets can only be met with infrastructure expansion, proper grid systems, defined routes and transmission lines. To support this, two key developments have taken place this year. The first is the release of the Flächenentwicklungsplan (FEP) or Area Development Plan 2023 for offshore wind development by Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH) or the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency. The second is BMWK’s release of an initial plan for establishing interconnections in the North Sea in collaboration with the three TSOs. These developments follow BMWK’s study on approaches to an offshore power grid in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which also examined the benefits of an international power grid in the North Sea. The study revealed that networking reduces greenhouse gas emissions, increases supply security, uses the available space more efficiently and saves considerable costs.
The FEP lays the foundation for achieving the 2030 expansion target and implements the new offshore wind energy law that came into effect on January 1, 2023. With the FEP, BSH is also meeting the responsibilities outlined in the offshore implementation agreement signed between the federal government, states and TSOs in November 2022. In the FEP, BSH defines areas in the German EEZ of the North and Baltic Seas on which offshore wind farms (OWFs) will be built in the future while ensuring a structured and coordinated approach to their development. The FEP determines when and how these areas will be tendered and when OWFs will be connected to the onshore power grid. It also regulates the technical principles for the connection lines. To accelerate expansion, FEP 2023 consolidates capacity in existing areas and identifies other potential areas with a total capacity of 36.5 GW. The FEP includes routes or route corridors for possible connections between OWFs, connecting lines and cross-border power lines, and the locations of converter platforms.
New tendering procedure
In accordance with WindSeeG, FEP 2023 introduces a new tender procedure for different types of sites in the German EEZ allowing developers to bid for sites that have not been centrally pre-investigated by the German government. The FEP specifies the chronological order in which the specified areas will be auctioned and in which quarter of the respective calendar year the wind turbines awarded under the contract and the associated grid connections will be commissioned.
Tenders and auctions for the specified areas in the FEP are carried out by German energy regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) or the Federal Network Agency. The first tenders for offshore wind turbines on centrally pre-examined areas in the North and Baltic Seas have already taken place in 2021 and 2022. Further tenders are planned for the years 2023 to 2027. On January 31, 2023, the first tenders for offshore wind turbines were announced by BNetzA. The areas N-11.1, N-12.1, N-12.2 in the North Sea and O-2.2 in the Baltic Sea, which have not been centrally pre-examined, have been tendered. The tender volume is 7 GW and the bid deadline is June 1, 2023. According to the tender, the maximum value for electricity from the wind turbines in these areas is 6.2 cents per kWh.
More recently, in February 2023, BNetzA launched tenders for four pre-examined areas with a planned generation capacity of 1.8 GW. The bids can be submitted until August 1, 2023. This includes two areas with a capacity of 900 MW in area N-3, located around 35 km north of Norderney, and two other areas with a 900 MW capacity in area N-6, about 90 km northwest of Borkum. Two other areas, N-11.2 and N-12.3, which have not been centrally pre-examined, are to be tendered in 2024 and become operational in 2031.
Grid connection systems and technological stipulations
As per the FEP, 25,980 MW of transmission capacity is scheduled to be commissioned across 16 grid connection systems between 2026 and 2032 across identified border corridors to territorial seas (border corridors). Eleven of the 16 grid connection systems are 2 GW ± 525 kV HVDC, four systems are 1 GW ± 320 kV HVDC and one grid connection is based on alternating current (AC) (300 MW system in the Baltic Sea). Further, five 2 GW grid connection systems aggregating 10 GW have been identified in the plan, for which border corridors are yet to be defined, that are likely to come up in 2032 and beyond. To achieve the expansion target of at least 70 GW by 2045, the FEP suggests that it will be necessary to identify further border corridors to territorial seas or to expand the capacity of the existing border corridors.
The commissioning schedule for grid connection systems and onshore grid connection points, also known as Netzverknüpfungspunkte (NVP), has been determined based on BNetzA’s opinion on the preliminary FEP draft. Further, NVPs are determined in coordination with the affected states as well as responsible TSOs. Notably, the final version of the FEP has seen changes in the allocation of NVPs, compared to its preliminary draft.
The NOR-12-2 grid connection system is now routed to Heide/West via the N-V border corridor. The designation of the grid connection system NOR-12-3 has been changed to NOR-13-1, and NOR-13-1 to NOR-13-2. Furthermore, the NVP of the connection system NOR-13-1 (previously NOR-12-3) Blockland was replaced by the NVP Rastede. In line with the FEP, Amprion renamed two of its offshore grid projects LanWin1 and LanWin3 to BalWin1 and BalWin2. This signifies a change in the wind farm locations that will be connected in the North Sea from 11-1 and 12-1 (LanWin cluster) to 9-1 and 10-1 (BalWin cluster).
Networking of German offshore systems in the North Sea
According to the initial plans recently presented by the three German TSOs along with BMWK, a new offshore network will be built to connect OWFs in the German North Sea with a combined capacity of 10 GW. The proposed plan includes offshore converter platforms, grid connections of OWFs to the onshore grid, and planned and potential interconnections between offshore platforms. Further, hybrid interconnections will be set up with neighbouring countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands. The first international interconnection projects are expected in the mid-2030s. These interconnectors will allow excess electricity (in times of weak demand for electricity in Germany) to be exported to neighbours to avoid the curtailment of German OWFs, and reduce the dependency on fossil power plants. Overall, cross-regional trade will increase the security of supply and welfare in Germany as well as entirety of Europe. In addition, networking at sea means that power lines can be better utilised, resulting in increased efficiently.
As a next step, the TSOs’ plans for networking will be incorporated into official German and European planning processes. Along with the TSOs of the neighbouring countries, the proposals will lay the foundation stone for an international offshore grid in the North Sea.
Challenges and the way forward
The FEP, along with the initial plan for transmission interconnections in the North Sea, provides a framework to achieve Germany’s expansion goals with more offshore wind tenders scheduled in the coming years. This puts the country’s statutory goals for offshore wind expansion on solid ground. However, the limited availability of space in the German EEZ must be taken into account in achieving these expansion targets, which requires the deployment of additional grid connection systems. While cross-border networking with hybrid connection of OWFs is desirable, its implementation is a challenge, primarily due to the complexities of international coordination. That said, if coordination and implementation issues relating to regulation, grid and spatial planning are promptly addressed, hybrid offshore networking will make a significant contribution to the European energy transition.