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German offshore wind developers warn of grid-connection crisis

German offshore wind developers are to hold crunch talks with the government over delays to grid connections, which they warn could derail the country’s entire offshore sector.


chief executive Professor Fritz Vahrenholt and chief commercial officer Leonhard Birnbaum warned the government in a letter that the provision of offshore wind grid connections has become “dramatically problematic” and is jeopardising the whole German sector. “This development puts us in an extremely difficult position,” they said.

The letter was sent in December, after North Sea grid operator TenneTtold operators that key offshore transmission hubs, including HelWin1 and 2 and BorWin2, are facing long delays.

RWE says resulting losses on the 295MW Nordsee Ost wind farm project alone could be more than €100m ($127m). “We want to build. All of the foundations, the components, the turbines are already coming to Bremerhaven,” says an RWE official.

But RWE is hopeful that talks with Economy Minister Philipp Rösler will be positive. “The government has understood the problem and the impact this can have,” says the official.

Developers, including other major groups, are calling on the government to step in to resolve the situation, with officials warning the issue could become “a real show-stopper”. RWE says recently established offshore targets of 7.6GW by 2020 and 26GW by 2030 will be missed if the connections are not speeded up.

Delays to HelWin1 will affect RWE’s Nordsee Ost and Blackstone’s 288MW Meerwind, while delays to HelWin2 will hit E.ON’s 288MW Amrumbank West. The 400MW Stadtwerke München-led Global Tech 1 faces problems from delays to the BorWin2 offshore connection.

E.ON says TenneT has told it that connection to Amrumbank will be delayed by up to 15 months, and that the transmission issue caused it to put off a final investment decision.

A spokesman for TenneT says subcontractors have informed it they still intend to complete the HelWin1 and BorWin2 connections in 2013, although “several months” later than expected. Officials had earlier said that only one of the two projects would be completed in 2013 as planned.

But contractor Siemens says that as installation of offshore platforms in the North Sea is restricted to May to September, it “will probably only be able to install one of the two facilities as scheduled within the 2012 window. The second facility could then not be installed until the 2013 window.” Siemens says it is too early to tell whether, as a result, one of the projects may not enter operation until 2014.

Siemens says it is in close contact with TenneT and that both parties are doing their “utmost to ensure that the scheduled commissioning dates are delayed as little as possible”.

It says that two other platforms it has been commissioned to install, including HelWin2, are not affected by delays.

TenneT has blamed supply-chain constraints and the relative inexperience of the industry, saying contractors Siemens and Prysmian do not have the capacity to construct all seven clusters that are under way on time. Meanwhile, it has asked the government to accelerate the mechanism for recouping its investment.

Operators say that while there are binding time frames for transmission system operators (TSOs) to provide grid connections, there are no clear rules of how to compensate developers — unlike for onshore, where transmission companies foot the bill.

RWE says it is considering legal action to cover any losses.

Developers argue that the German government should force TSOs to compensate for delays, and say they want to be allowed to build their own connections and then sell them back to TSOs.

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