Lofty ambitions for vast wind power build-outs – and the detailed policy measures that will make or break them in practice – dominated the agenda at WindEnergy Hamburg and its WindTV conference platform over four days of top-rank debate, commentary and analysis.
The move to an all-digital format did nothing to dilute the clout of the policy and industry leaders taking part, and the opening ministerial line up was perhaps the most impressive in the event’s history.
EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson underlined her backing for onshore and offshore wind as a vital plank of the bloc’s net-zero agenda and pledged policy measures to help the sector achieve its potential of 750GW on land and 300GW at sea by 2050. That will need interconnection of Europe’s expanding offshore wind fleet, seen as one of the great opportunities of the continent’s energy transition but still poorly served by regulatory frameworks, which Simson plans to fix.
UK energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng and his Belgian counterpart Tinne Van der Straeten, revealed that they are talking about how to facilitate those linksin a ‘hands across the North Sea’ dialogue that’s proceeding despite Brexited Britain being locked out of the EU-led body set up to foster co-operation – a situation a top British trade official described as “silly”.
Denmark’s energy and climate minster Dan Jorgensen was also keen to talk interconnection, describing his country’s plans for up to 12GW of sea-based ‘energy hubs’ that can connect to multiple nations were part of a vision “for a fundamental paradigm shift” to go beyond national borders.
If interconnectivity was one red thread running through WindEnergy Hamburg and WindTV, another was hydrogen – and the two wove together when Poland’s energy minister Michal Kurtyka revealed how his nation is planning a ‘hydrogen highway’ to transport green power and H2 from Baltic offshore wind farms south.
Hydrogen was on the mind of German energy minister Peter Altmaier when he announced support for a wind-based green H2 project in Chile involving Porsche, Siemens Energy, Enel and others – the first such backing under Germany’s new national hydrogen strategy.
The International Energy Agency made a thought-provoking contribution to the WindEnergy Hamburg policy agenda when executive director Fatih Birol told WindTV he expects offshore wind power to follow the cost reduction path that PVhas in recent years – but warned Europe risks a similar loss of industrial primacy to Asia as seen in solar.
WindTV also heard from newly-elected WindEurope chairman Andreas Nauen, the Siemens Gamesa CEO, who presented the sector with an inspiring vision of how it could help make Europe “the world’s first climate-neutral continent”– if policymakers help it reach its potential.
Technology, policy and how the relationship between the two will shape the future of onshore wind loomed large during the Hamburg week.
Recharge ran exclusive in-depth interviews with the chief technology officer of Vestas Anders Nielsen and Siemens Gamesa onshore technology head Jorge Magalhães, the latter offering views on the technical size limits of land-based wind.
That theme was picked up by WindTV panel that heard GE Renewable Energy CTO Danielle Merfeld and RWE onshore operations chief Katja Wünschel predict that social acceptance, not rotor-diameter or height of turbine tower, would ultimately be decisive in the scale of machines.
Talking of large turbines, GE this week unveiled its most powerful onshore wind turbine to date, a 6MW Cypress design, while fellow OEM Nordex’s 5MW N149/5.X onshore wind turbine received its key IEC type certificate, clearing the machine for use in international markets.
How such large new machines feed into the push to build new projects and repower existing ones was another key question for WindTV delegates, with speakers highlighting the problems of permitting under regulatory systems in many European nations they deemed ‘unfit for purpose’.
EDPR CEO Rui Teixeira told WindTV the use of advanced IT technology was needed to bring down the time taken to “seconds, not months”. For good measure, Green Investment Group global head Mark Dooley had his own suggestions for regulatory help for developers and investors – 10 years of visibility on auctions and longer power contracts.
One of the most eye-catching onshore wind announcements of the week came from Siemens Gamesa, which said its pioneering project to link a turbine directly to green hydrogen productionwill be up and running in Denmark as soon as next month – with the H2 used to fuel taxis in Copenhagen and elsewhere.
The WindEnergy Hamburg offshore wind agenda was dominated by scale, and the opportunities and challenges presented by the sector’s vast ambitions in terms of power and green hydrogen production.
Catrin Jung, head of Vattenfall’s offshore wind business unit, told Recharge in an exclusive interview how the “wave of projects” planned by the European sector to 2030 will bring challenges for developers, their supply chain and governments, not least in the area of marine spatial planning.
Fellow development heavyweight RWE Renewables also featured prominently, with offshore chief Sven Utermöhlen revealing how it plans to carve out a global presencethat spans the US and key East Asian nations such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
Floating wind was a hot topic on the WindTV agenda, reflected ballooning interest in the sector. Grzegorz Gorski, chief operating officer of European developer Ocean Winds, made a characteristically straight-talking contribution to the debatewith his contention that the UK is in danger of missing the chance to seize global floating wind leadership – and needs to go to gigawatt-scale fast to make up ground.
The UK’s offshore wind ambitions were also in the spotlight of a study reported by Recharge that claimed the nation’s pipeline is currently well short of what’s needed to hit its 40GW ambition by 2030.
But for all the challenges, a palpable sense of excitement at the scale of what’s planned offshore permeated the virtual airwaves of Hamburg, whether through the 1.4TW global vision of the Equinor/Orsted-led Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition or the arrival of newcomers Estonia and Latvia on the sector’s stage with a 1GW cross-border project in the Baltic.