Two factors are maintaining Germany's position as the leader in wind power generation projects. One is the 2006 law that required German grid companies to connect to new windfarms as soon as they start operating and to carry the cost of the necessary connections. This development is said to have reduced costs for windfarm developers by 25 percent to 30 percent and has motivated new projects. The second factor is the move offshore with generating projects. There are an estimated 19,000 wind turbines on German soil and most of the best sites have been taken. The move offshore has the added benefit that offshore turbines are able to generate at full capacity about 50 percent of the time whereas onshore turbines operate about 20 percent of the time.
Germany currently has more than 22,200 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity representing about 7 percent of total power capacity. Wind will play a major role as the country targets 30 percent of power from renewable sources by 2020 with offshore windfarms providing 12,000 MW, and possibly 33 percent from renewable sources by 2030.
One of the challenges facing offshore windfarms is the transmission of the power generated to the national grid and to consumers far from the point of generation. Alternating current technology used in the first smaller offshore wind parks is reaching its limits on account of the high reactive power demand of the cables.
E.ON AG (Dusseldorf, Germany) is developing the Borkum-2 windpower cluster 130 kilometers out into the North Sea and has contracted ABB Limited (Zurich, Switzerland) to provide the technology that will link the 400 MW project to the national grid. The $400 million project is part of the first phase of the project, which is scheduled to have a capacity of 1,500 MW when completed, making it one of the largest in the world. ABB will use high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) "light" current technology to transmit the power underwater and underground with minimal impact on the environment.
HVDC Light was developed by ABB in the 1990s and has been used widely on projects, including the 2006 link between Estonia and Finland, and in supplies to urban areas, island grids and offshore gas rigs. ABB will build a rectifier station on an independent platform 130 kilometers out to sea and will connect power from the 80 wind turbines at Borkum-2 to the grid by transmitting power to a receiving station on land through 128 kilometers of undersea cables and 75 kilometers of landlines. The Borkum cluster is scheduled to have a combined generating output of 400 MW in service by 2009.
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