Offshore wind power is one of the pillars in the energy mix that the traffic light coalition in Berlin wants to promote. Offshore wind farms deliver more stable and larger amounts of electricity than onshore wind farms. From currently around eight gigawatts (8000 megawatts) of power from a total of around 1500 wind turbines, the installed capacity in the German parts of the North Sea and Baltic Sea is to increase to 30 gigawatts by 2030, to 40 gigawatts by 2035 and to 45 gigawatts by 2045.
Within less than seven years, the German offshore capacity is to be quadrupled - the industry needed about 15 years for the previous eight gigawatts. For the crash program desired by the federal government, almost everything the industry needs is missing on the coasts: After the first offshore expansion wave in the past decade, the federal government slowed down the expansion, and most of the industry then migrated away again. A larger offshore industrial core is only found in Cuxhaven these days, where Siemens Gamesa produces wind turbines and Titan Wind produces steel foundations. In Nordenham, Steelwind also manufactures foundation tubes, so-called monopiles.
The construction of heavy-duty terminals has been completely neglected in recent years. In Bremerhaven, for example, the construction of such a plant in the Weser failed in court after years of political disputes. The companies that want to build offshore wind farms in German waters are dependent on free capacities, especially in the plants in Eemshaven in the Netherlands and in Esbjerg in Denmark.
The German port industry is alarmed. “If we take climate protection and the expansion targets seriously, we have to create the necessary capacities in the seaports as quickly as possible. This applies both to the construction of new offshore facilities and to the expansion offensive on land," said Angela Titzrath, President of the Central Association of Seaport Companies (ZDS). Titzrath's main job is CEO of the Hamburg port logistics group HHLA. The ZDS represents the interests of 156 port and logistics companies in the five German coastal states.
"We keep hearing from the industry that there is a lack of production capacity for wind turbines in Europe to cover Germany's needs in the coming years. We need significantly more heavy-duty areas in the ports that are large enough for modern wind turbines to import these systems and to expand them offshore,” said Titzrath. "In addition, the obstacles to carrying out necessary heavy-duty transports must be removed, approval procedures shortened and staffing optimized."
In Cuxhaven, the state of Lower Saxony wants to push ahead with the construction of three new heavy-duty berths and thus strengthen the location as a hub for the wind power industry overall. “We very much welcome the fact that the state of Lower Saxony is taking the lead at the Cuxhaven site and is creating new heavy-duty areas. For this national task, however, we need a cross-locational organization of the necessary investments along the entire German North Sea and Baltic Sea coast," said Titzrath. It also requires a “foresighted creation of a uniform set of regulations. Politicians and the port industry have shown what is possible with the LNG terminals,” said Titzrath. "We have to repeat that in order to master the expansion goals and thus the energy transition as a whole."
Within a few months last year, the conditions for the installation of floating import terminals for the import of deep-frozen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) were created, the first of which were stationed in Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbüttel and Lubmin. The reason for this was the loss of Russian pipeline gas as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The city of Cuxhaven itself also wants to significantly expand its areas for the wind power industry. However, the planned projects have not yet been secured. "The berths 5 to 7 at the port of Cuxhaven are urgently needed if the expansion of offshore wind power in Germany is to progress as planned," said Marc Itgen, head of the Cuxhaven Agency for Economic Development, WELT. “The construction of berths 5 to 7 will cost a total of 300 million euros, of which the state of Lower Saxony has already committed 100 million euros. We are now waiting for the federal government's commitment for its 100 million euro contribution to the expansion of the quays. Only then can the remaining 100 million euros be raised from the private sector.”
Itgen said the future berths would have to withstand extreme loads. “The new berths have to withstand loads of up to 2500 tons in daily business, with monopiles of up to 130 meters in length. Titan Wind also wants to manufacture such foundations in Cuxhaven in the future.” Added to this is the growing need for the import of wind turbines: “Vestas alone imports 3,500 to 4,000 wind power components a year via Cuxhaven for its onshore turbines, which are installed in Germany and neighboring countries from nacelles to rotors to tower segments,” said Itgen. “And at Vestas alone, that number could rise to 5,500 to 6,000 components a year. Then there are the requirements for handling at Siemens Gamesa and at Titan Wind.”