OLDENBURG, Germany, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- The operators of Germany's first offshore wind farm on Tuesday urged the German government to increase incentives to expand the generation of renewable power at sea.
Utilities Eon, EWE and Vattenfall in a statement called on Berlin to improve the financial and regulatory framework so that more offshore wind farms can be launched in Germany.
Nearly 30 wind farms have been approved in the North and Baltic seas but just a small number is actually about to be built.
"In the risky field of offshore construction, everything depends on planning security," the companies, which have built the 60 megawatt test farm Alpha Ventus, said in a statement.
The slow expansion of offshore wind power indicates that there is insufficient
confidence in the level of economic feasibility of the projects, they added.
Erected 28 miles off the North Sea coast, the Alpha Ventus farm consists of 12 wind turbines -- each nearly as high as the Washington Monument -- that generate enough power for nearly 50,000 households.
The offshore test field since its official launch in April fed some 170 gigawatt hours of power to the national grid, the companies involved said.
"More offshore wind farms must now quickly follow in order to create a truly competitive offshore industry in Germany," said Joerg Buddenberg of EWE's renewable energy division.
Sven Utermoehlen, chief executive officer of Eon Climate and Renewables Central Europe, said the construction of Alpha Ventus was done with offshore vessels and equipment from the oil and gas industry, something that should change.
"For all already approved future offshore wind power projects in Germany, we need really adequate installation vessels that are specifically designed for water depths of more than 90 feet and that are equipped with sufficiently high cranes," he said.
Germany has ambitious clean energy targets. The share of renewables in the power mix is to grow to more than 30 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2030, up from 16 percent in 2010.
While the country has pioneered commercial onshore wind power production, growth on land is limited. Some 21,000 turbines are turning in Germany and plans to replace aging ones with more powerful -- and thus bigger ones -- have drawn public opposition.
That's why companies are moving to sea. Offshore construction and maintenance is difficult and costly but the wind blows stronger and steadier, resulting in a greater power yield than on land. Berlin is backing that strategy: The government has stated the ambitious target of installing some 10,000 MW worth of offshore wind power generation by 2020. The plan would require roughly 2,000 new turbines off the Baltic and North Sea coast.