Germany’s flagship Bard 1 offshore wind farm has been described as “a faulty total system” as technical problems continue to plague the project, casting major doubts on the feasibility of large scale offshore projects.
The wind farm was officially turned on in August last year but was shut down again almost immediately due to technical difficulties that have still not been resolved – and now lawyers are getting involved.
The wind farm comprises 80 5MW turbines situated 100 km off the north German coastline. The difficulty facing engineers is how to get the electricity generated back to shore. So far, every attempt to turn on the turbines has resulted in overloaded and “gently smouldering” offshore converter stations.
Built at a cost of hundreds of millions and costing between €1 and €2 million a day to service, the project is estimated to have cost €340 million in lost power generation over the last year alone. And if the problems with the technology are deemed not to be the fault of the operator, German taxpayers will be on the hook for the running and repair costs, thanks to the German Energy Act 2012.
Understandably, the project’s investors are becoming increasingly nervous, which is why lawyers are now scrambling to pin the blame elsewhere. According to the German magazine Speigel “everything has turned to the question of who is responsible for the fiasco – and the costs.”
Inevitably, the fiasco has brought into question the feasibility of the entire green energy industry. The Bard 1 project was designed to be the global leader in offshore wind design: a model for everyone else to follow. That it doesn’t work has already cast doubt on other projects. Energy company Trianel are concerned that their ‘Windpark Borkum’, Germany’s second largest major offshore project, will now not work when it comes online next month. And they have already shelved plans for a further 200MW offshore project until the technology can be proven.
Germany already has amongst the highest energy bills in the world, not helped by the EU’s commitment to carbon reduction measures at the behest of an increasingly hysterical climate change industry, and the rest of Europe fares no better. British and European climate change policies already add an extra ten percent to British householders’ energy bills, at a time when fuel poverty affects one in four people.
Offshore wind is often seen as the acceptable face of green energy. Earlier this year Conservative minister Michael Fallon announced that the party was planning to scrap subsidies for onshore wind farms, but they remain fully committed to offshore projects.
Opening the 175 turbine, 630MW capacity London Array wind farm, the world’s largest to date, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said “This is a great day for Britain and a big win for renewable energy. London Array shows you can build large scale renewable energy projects right here in Britain. This is because when it comes to clean energy, the UK has one of the clearest investment climates globally.”
His support gives the lead for the rest of his party, with Conservatives of all ranks lining up to get behind offshore wind power.
In July, planning permission was granted by the government for a 175 turbine wind farm off the historic south coast of England, which will be seen from the newly created South Downs national park and tourist spots such as Beachy Head. The Rampion project will cost £2 billion to construct, and is expected to be handed £200 million a year in taxpayer subsidies. The local Conservative candidate for Lewes constituency, which runs along the affected coastline, wrote to her local paper to underline her support for the project, saying “I supported this scheme and actually voted for it as a local councillor when it was first proposed a few years ago. I was therefore delighted when the Conservative led Government approved the scheme earlier this year.
“The Rampion Wind farm will bring a much needed energy supply for the country but it will also be a huge boost to the local economy and that is why I voted for it in 2010 and why I still support it now.”
Likewise, Conservative MP Therese Coffey, whose Suffolk Coastal constituency is likely to be affected by a vast offshore wind farm project, has also written in support of offshore wind. An article on her website reads “Therese has welcomed the announcement from the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills that an Offshore Wind Investment Organisation to boost levels of inward investment and to further stimulate jobs in the UK offshore wind industry, will be set up.
“Therese said: “The creation of the Offshore Wind Investment Organisation will help bring enormous economic benefit to our shores, supporting skilled jobs. … The formation of this industry-led partnership will boost the positive benefits that the offshore wind sector can bring to the UK economy”.”
However, with the Bild 1 turbines are already being tagged “white elephants in the North Sea” by sources such as the Economist, and with costs mounting and no end in sight, the question being asked, in Germany at least, is “Is the wind boom over before it even really began?”