German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood beside ministers from France and Norway last week as she officially opened the largest wind park in the Baltic Sea.
The Arkona wind park, made up of 60 turbines with a capacity of 385 megawatts of electricity, will be able to supply enough power for around 400,000 homes.
The park is a joint venture between Germany’s Eon and Norway’s Equinor, and the electricity will be bought by France’s Engie, routed through a French sub-station linking the turbines together and to the mainland.
The international character of the project is exactly the kind of energy cooperation the European Union is trying to encourage. Earlier this month, EU energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete heralded the five-year anniversary of the bloc’s “energy union” strategy as a success.
The strategy aims to increase linkages between national power systems while at the same time transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.
Progress in the energy transition over the past two decades has been largely driven by national plans that sometimes conflict with one another, prompting many in the sector to ask Brussels for intervention. For instance, Angela Merkel’s sudden decision to phase out nuclear power in Germany following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan had disruptive implications for the country’s neighbours and has driven up coal consumption in the EU.
Domestically, Germany has been one of the pioneers within the European Union in transitioning to renewable power through its “Energiewende” policy. Renewables today account for 38% of Germany’s energy mix, and are projected to reach a 65% share within a decade.
Despite the success of the Energiewende, Germany is still set to miss its emissions reduction targets. That failure has been blamed on a lack of big-picture thinking and coordinated planning with other EU countries. Projects like Arkona are meant to correct this.
While most of Germany’s wind farms up until now have been on its North Sea Coast, nearby similar Danish and Dutch farms, Arkona is the first massive park to be tried in the Baltic Sea, where the wind is not as intense. The fact that farms are now extending into the Baltic shows just how saturated Europe’s northern coasts have become. There are already 1,300 wind turbines in the North and Baltic Seas with a capacity of around 6.4 gigawatts.
Wind has been at the forefront of Northern Europe’s renewable energy plans, while solar has been the focus in the South. Belgium plans to double the amount of its waters made available for offshore wind farms. Denmark plans to build enough wind farms to provide electricity to its seven largest cities.