Sun, Apr 16, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Germany strikes offshore wind deals sans subsidies

NY Times News Service, LONDON

European governments have spent large sums of money in recent years subsidizing giant offshore wind projects in hopes of creating a clean source of energy that could eventually pay for itself. Now that moment might be here — and a lot sooner than expected.

The Danish company Dong Energy A/S, the largest offshore wind developer, on Thursday won the right to build two large wind projects in the German North Sea with no government subsidies — a highly symbolic first for the industry.

The company is to receive the revenue from the electricity generated by the wind farms. German consumers would pay the substantial costs of connecting the wind farms at sea to the power grid.

“Offshore wind is categorically proving its competitiveness,” Jochen Homann, president of the Bundesnetzagentur, the German agency that held the auction, said. “This is good news for all electricity consumers who contribute to funding ‘renewable’ energy.”

Offshore wind dates back only 25 years; Danish developers were the first who took to the sea for its open spaces and stronger breezes.

The industry has always seemed promising because its installations could generate large amounts of electricity without the greenhouse gas emissions produced by coal or natural-gas-fired plants.

In this way, offshore wind projects helped meet governments’ goals for tackling climate change, but costs remained stubbornly high until the past two years.

In a news release, Dong cited several factors that underpinned its bids. By the time the projects are completed in 2024, the company said it expects turbine makers to offer a new generation of machines almost double the size of the largest current models.

In recent years, turbine makers like General Electric Co in the US, Vestas Wind Systems A/S in Denmark and Siemens AG in Germany have produced larger and more powerful machines up to 183m high, meaning more power can be produced by fewer windmills.

Dong also said that the new sites offered very high average wind speeds and that it could combine the operations with others in the area, further lowering costs.

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