Germany has unveiled its first commercial offshore wind farm in the North Sea. The wind farm, which has been given the name ‘Bard Offshore 1’, lies approximately 55 miles north west of the German island of Borkum. Bard Offshore 1 is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2012, by which time it will have 80 functioning turbines. Once these turbines have all been installed, the site will have an enormous 400 megawatt capacity. This is enough to supply almost half a million homes with electricity.
However, the wind farm currently has only 17 turbines, of which just 11 are functioning at present. High winds and rough seas make operation of deep sea wind farms, like Bard Offshore 1, notoriously difficult. Stormy weather, combined with a number of technical problems, has already meant that the wind farm’s unveiling had to be postponed from its original date at the end of last year. Despite these setbacks, planners are convinced that Bard Offshore 1 has the potential to save as much as 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide during its 20-year operational lifetime.
European Commissioner for Energy, Günter Oettinger, has praised the project, saying: “Offshore has an important role to play in the expansion of our energy production; we are aiming at producing 35% of our energy from renewable sources within the next nine years.” Oettinger, who was present at the official unveiling of Bard Offshore 1 last week, also outlined his vision for the future of the EU’s energy production. In particular, Oettinger highlighted the importance of improving storage capacity and upgrading Europe’s ageing electrical grid networks. “In terms of our electrical grid, it sometimes feels like we’re stuck in the grips of the 19th century and we haven’t really arrived in the Europe of today yet.”
The unveiling of Bard Offshore 1 has come at a good time for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She has recently seen her popularity plummet, following a decision to temporarily close seven of Germany’s oldest nuclear plants, in light of events in Fukushima, Japan. “We will use the moratorium period, which we deliberately set to be short and ambitious, to drive the change in energy policy and accelerate it wherever possible, as we want to reach the age of renewable energy as quickly as possible,” she said. Next month, Merkel is expected to officially open Germany’s first wind farm in the Baltic Sea.
On land, Germany already has 21,000 wind turbines.