We shouldn’t put up barriers where they don’t exist
“Out at sea we have now broken through the gigawatt barrier for installed capacity.”
So said Norbert Giese, board member at the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation and chairman of the offshore wind steering committee at VDMA Power Systems, earlier this month.
He was talking about the news from Deutsche WindGuard that showed that Germany had over 1GW of offshore wind capacity connected to the grid at the end of 2014, with around 300MW of additional turbines not connected. It estimated that, in total, this represents €4bn investment.
The fact that German offshore has got past the psychologically-important 1GW figure is great to hear, but we have one quibble. Let’s not call it a “barrier”when it isn’t.
We understand that organisations in the wind power sector want the public to hear positive news about the sector. That includes this story about German offshore smashing the 1GW barrier.
In reality, the sector has done nothing of the sort. Yes, Germany now has more than 1GW offshore capacity, but there was no “barrier”. The German government hadn’t imposed a 1GW limit on wind development in the German North Sea, so the “barrier”has been made up after the event.
Our main problem with “barrier”is it sounds like wind is simply impressed to have reached 1GW. Why should it be? There’s no financial reason why German offshore couldn’t exceed 1GW, and by the end of 2015 it is set to reach capacity of over 3GW, representing total investment of €10bn. Do we really need to hear every time German offshore smashes through another gigawatt? No.
We love to see the progress of German offshore wind. It comes as leading US scheme Cape Wind is in major doubt; and as the economics of offshore wind in the world-leading market faces tough scrutiny from politicians and developers. But let’s not make out each gigawatt is another “barrier”.
Offshore wind has enough real barriers to bust through without creating fictional ones.