NewsNorth sea nations to build the world's biggest offshore wind power hub

North sea nations to build the world's biggest offshore wind power hub

The Germans want to turn the North Sea into a power plant.
The Germans want to turn the North Sea into a power plant.
Images source: © Getty Images | Bloomberg
Robert Kędzierski

29 June 2024 14:58

During the second summit dedicated to the North Sea in Ostend, Belgium, leaders from nine European countries agreed on a plan to create the world's largest power plant. The project involves expanding offshore wind farms to an impressive capacity of 300 gigawatts by 2050.

In the Belgian port city of Ostend, a groundbreaking meeting of European leaders took place to discuss the future of wind energy in the North Sea. Representatives from nine countries attended: Germany, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Norway, and Denmark. Among those present were also Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and representatives of 120 companies from the private sector.

The main topic of discussion was the ambitious vision of transforming the North Sea into a gigantic wind power plant. In kicking off the summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that the North Sea could become the world's largest power plant. According to the portal, this bold statement reflects the scale of the planned investments in renewable energy in the region.

Ideal conditions for wind energy development

The summit participants set specific goals for the development of offshore wind energy. By 2030, the plan is to achieve a capacity of 120 gigawatts and by mid-century - up to 300 gigawatts. By comparison, at the end of 2021, the total capacity of all offshore wind farms worldwide was about 57 gigawatts. Achieving these ambitious plans requires close cooperation between the involved countries, streamlining permitting procedures, and reducing bureaucracy.

The North Sea offers ideal conditions for wind energy development. Its shallow waters, extending far from shore, allow for the installation of wind turbines over extensive areas. However, Chancellor Scholz emphasised that the crucial challenge will be distributing the produced energy to the industrial centres of the respective countries. In this context, he again highlighted the importance of green hydrogen as the future energy carrier.

Federal Minister of Economy Robert Habeck, in addition to signing the main declaration from the summit - the "Declaration of Ostend" - also entered into additional cooperation agreements with Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Habeck emphasised that since last year's summit in Esbjerg, cooperation in the North Sea region has become a political priority.

Infrastructure challenges for the plan

Implementing a project on such a grand scale brings numerous challenges. In an interview with Der Spiegel, Sven Utermöhlen, Director of Offshore Wind Energy at RWE, pointed out that expanding infrastructure will not be easy. He noted rising interest rates as a significant obstacle, complicating financing and increasing risks for manufacturers and investors.

Expanding transmission networks is also necessary in addition to the construction of wind farms. The plan for international green energy distribution requires substantial land-based infrastructure investments. The Dutch grid operator TenneT has already entered into cooperation agreements regarding expanding transformer stations in the North Sea. The value of these contracts alone reaches £26 billion, which indicates the scale of planned investments.

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