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Equinor looks East as Merkel opens Baltic Sea’s largest wind farm

Equinor and E.ON already eye Polish projects as they inaugurate the 385MW Arkona array in German waters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has opened the largest wind farm in the Baltic Sea, stressing the need to do more to advance the country’s slowed-down energy transition, while the array’s operators – Norway’s Equinor and Germany’s E.ON – are already looking further East for more offshore development.

Equinor and E.ON have been feeding power into the German grid from the 385MW Arkona array north of the island of Rügen since September, but the wind farm with its 60 Siemens Gamesa SWT-6.0-15 turbines only this year will reach peak production.

“Arkona sets a standard for the transition of the energy system,” Merkel said during the official inauguration on Rügen.

“We will discuss how we achieve the climate goals. It is not sufficient to convert energy production. We see great potential in the heating sector. We are also facing a major change in the transport sector.”

Merkel in part reacted to criticism her government isn’t doing enough to ensure Germany will reach its ambitious target for renewables to make up 65% of the power mix by 2030. The country is already generally expected to miss its 2020 EU target of an emission reduction of 40% when compared to 1990 levels.

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The wind sector has been pressuring Berlin to step up its ambition in both onshore and offshore development, but one of the main obstacles for that is that planned high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines linking Germany’s coast and windy North to population and industry centres to the south are behind schedule.

Equinor for its part is already eying possibilities in the Baltic further East.

“With Arkona we are well positioned for further growth in offshore wind in the Baltic Sea,” said Pål Eitrheim, Equinor’s executive vice president for New Energy Solutions.

The Norwegian oil firm (previously called Statoil) early last year had bought half of the 1.2GW Bałtyk Środkowy II and Bałtyk Środkowy III (aka Baltic Middle 2 and 3) off the Polish coast from local utility Polenergia, which are widely believed to be the first Polish offshore arrays to be built in coming years.

In December, Equinor also bought 50% of the less developed Bałtyk Środkowy 1 project that alone could have a capacity of up to 1.56GW.

E.ON, which is the lead operator at Arkona, recently has also stated its ambition to expand into Polish waters to form an offshore wind cluster in the region and bundle operations.

Siemens Gamesa stressed that it was able to carry out the turbine installation part at Arkona in a record five months up to October 2018, with a concept that allows for the installation of one turbine in less than 24 hours.

"We are delighted to have delivered the first Baltic Sea installation of the SGRE 6 MW direct drive offshore wind turbines safely, reliably, and rapidly,” offshore chief executive Andreas Nauen said.

“The Arkona wind power plant exemplifies the great contribution that offshore wind power is making in Germany already today. Thanks to rapid technical developments, offshore wind power has matured into a cost-effective energy source within just a few years, providing clean energy for generations to come.”

It was a very successful day for the German-Spanish OEM.

In France, the company managed to snatch away from rival GE the preferred supplier status for two offshore wind projects that combined will have about 1GW in capacity.

NOTE: the 400MW Anholt offshore array off Denmark is bigger than Arkona, but it is located in the Kattegat strait, which drains waters from the Baltic into the North Sea

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