German Green Energy Bluster Running Out Of Wind

August 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

BORKUM, GERMANY - JUNE 23:  Wind turbines stan...

Wind turbines stand at the nearly completed Riffgat offshore wind farm in the North Sea on June 23, 2013 near Borkum, Germany in front of the jack-up installation vessel ‘Bold Tern’.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Although blades on the 150-foot wind turbines at the new German offshore Riffgat power plant nine miles off the North Sea island of Bokum are finally turning, there is one big problem. They are doing so only because they are being powered by onshore fossil-fueled generators to prevent the rotors from corroding in salty air. And why might that be? Well although they otherwise function perfectly, the underfinanced grid operator hasn’t yet connected a power line because of problems attracting investor financing. Prospective investors attribute their reluctance to a lack of market confidence.

While half a dozen wind farms are still being built in the North Sea, there are no follow-up contracts. As Ronney Meyer, managing director of Windenergie Agentur (EWE) based in the northern port city of Bremerhaven said, “The market has collapsed.” EWE developer Riffgat reportedly doesn’t plan to invest in any more offshore turbines.

There is little mystery regarding a clear lack of clamor for wind in the energy marketplace. Namely, taxpayers and ratepayers are recognizing that the subsidy-dependent and performance-costly industry makes no economic sense.

Politicians are getting the message. Plans for a cap on electricity prices proposed by pro-business Economics Minister Phillip Rosler and Environment Minister Peter Altmaier have made wind investors jittery. This could reduce existing guaranteed feed-in tariffs that wind operators require to prevent consumer costs from skyrocketing even more than they have already.

Speaking at a June 12 energy conference in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for reduced scaling back renewable energy subsidies to contain spiraling costs which have now reached around $27 billion per year. The chancellor noted that “If the renewables surcharge keeps rising like it did in recent years, we will have a problem in terms of energy supply.”

Merkel faces September parliamentary elections where big energy bills imposed upon households and businesses are a hot issue. Even traditional energy providers have turned up the heat. The German energy industry group BDEW has said that the next government must make energy policy reform a top priority. They warn that the surge of renewables is increasingly clogging the power grid and eating into profits of large power stations.

The German government has previously increased incentives for electricity from offshore wind several times in efforts to blow life into the industry. Wind farm operators now get 19 cents for each kilowatt-hour fed into the grid over the first eight years following construction. This is more than twice as much paid for power from terrestrial wind turbines. Offshore turbines have been heavily promoted on premises that the wind blows constantly at sea and that the installations don’t consume valuable land areas. They do, however, encounter lots of opposition from North Sea island resort residents and businesses who fiercely object to visual impacts.

Der Spiegel reported that until last year, the construction of wind farms was widely perceived as an opportunity to regenerate declining economies along Germany’s coast. An estimated $1.3 billion has been invested in port and factory facilities to boost ailing shipbuilding and fishing industries in cities such as Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven and Emden.

However in Cuxhaven, where the state of Lower Saxony kicked in $165 million in harbor improvements, only seagulls now land there. That is where the foundations for the first offshore wind farm were being built. The grounds of Cuxhaven Steel Construction which was to weld them together …an area as large as 70 soccer fields hasn’t seen any work since operations shut down. Almost all of its 450 employees have been laid off.

The Problems Aren’t Just Blowing Offshore

Even popular mainstream Der Spiegel has recently run a number of articles scorning high taxpayer and consumer cost penalties of failed green energy policies. The country has already invested more than $250 billion in “renewable energy”, and a phase out of nuclear plants in a knee-jerk reaction to Japan’s Fukushima disaster compounds the self-inflicted economic injuries.

German households pay the second highest power costs in Europe. Only the Danes pay more, and both countries pay roughly 300% more for residential electricity than we Americans do. If this isn’t bad enough already, Denmark, which allegedly produces between 20- 30 percent of its electricity from wind and solar (estimates vary), hopes to produce half from those sources by 2020. Germany now gets approximately 12% of its electricity from wind and solar, and plans to increase that proportion to 35% by 2020.

Why do I say “allegedly?  Because there’s a big difference between the amount of electricity produced, and the amount that makes a difference in meeting consumer demands when needed.  To illustrate this, a  2009 study reported by CEPOS, a Danish think tank, found that while wind provided 19% of the country’s electricity generation, it only met an average 9.7% of the demand over a five year period, and a mere 5% during 2006.

Since Denmark can’t use all the electricity it produces at night, it exports about half of its extra supply to Norway and Sweden where hydroelectric power can be switched on and off to balance their grids. Still, even with those export sales, government wind subsidies cause Danish customers to pay the highest electricity rates in Europe.       

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