Offshore wind investors look to Baltic: 50Hertz

BERLIN Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:31am EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - 50Hertz, one of Germany's four power network operators, sees growing investor interest in setting up offshore wind parks in the Baltic, as connection problems hamper growth in the North Sea, its chief executive said.

"We see a shift from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea," Boris Schucht told Reuters at the annual Handelsblatt renewable energy conference on Monday.

50Hertz, jointly owned by Belgian grid operator Elia and Australian Industry Funds Management (IFM), is responsible for connecting offshore wind parks in the German part of the Baltic.

Weaker winds in the Baltic usually favor investments in wind parks located in the North Sea, where winds are much stronger.

Schucht said he expected offshore capacity in the German part of the Baltic to reach between 2,000 and 3,000 megawatts (MW) over the next 10 years, up from 50 MW now.

In total, 128 MW in German offshore wind capacity has so far been connected to the grid, according to the European Wind Energy Association EWEA.

Schucht's comments come after 50Hertz's Dutch peer TenneT ran into major difficulties connecting offshore wind parks to the German electricity grid, mainly hampered by insufficient funding and regulatory uncertainties over liability risks.

Earlier this month, German energy network agency BnetzA said it had opened a case against TenneT stemming from its failure to link a North Sea wind farm to the grid.

The move followed a complaint brought by developer Windreich and is part of a wider clash between the German government spurring offshore wind projects and TenneT, the firm responsible for linking them to the grid.

Offshore wind farms are expensive to build and maintain because of their huge size and the logistics of constructing and repairing platforms. This makes profitability hard to predict.

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by David Holmes)

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