May 11: Offshore windparks should replace nuclear plants
The German government has decided to phase out all seventeen still active nuclear plants by 2022. To compensate for their production (22 percent of German power), renewable sources should be doubled in the next thirteen years.
Renewable power from sun, sind and biomass now accounts for almost 15 percent of German electricity. By 2020, this should have risen to 25 to 30 percent according to government plans.
On our way to BrunsbŁttel, we encounterd two nuclear plants: one in Brokdorf, with the typical white dome, and an even bigger one in BrunsbŁttel itself. Despite the knispering sound of the power lines the BrunsbŁttel plant, now under ownership of Vattenfall, is offline since june 2007. According to the local newspaper Der Insel Bote (May 11th, 2009) there is little chance of ever restarting it.


A number of technical failures had led to unrest, after which the licence was withdrawn in 2007. Vattenfall recently requested permission to re-enter production at BrunsbŁttel, but the request was turned down by environment minister Sigmar Gabriel for 'security reasons'.
Instead, the government opts for green energy. Up until now Germany is not very active in offshore windparks. But that is about to change.
By 2030 thirty windparks are to be built in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Nominal capacity should add up to 25 gigawatts, comparable to the power of 25 modern nuclear plants. Allthough one should multiply that number by 0,3 - the production factor - since wind doesn't always blow at full force. Replacement of 8 nuclear plants by the windparks would be a more accurate estimate.
Along with the construction of windparks, energy efficiency is stimulated as well, as is the introduction of smart energy use. For example washing machines that wait to operate until power prices are low because of a large input of windpower in the net, combined with low demand.
Allthough wind energy is a fast grower, the industry meets with head wind as well. Resistance to offshore windparks in the national nature reserve 'Wattenmeer' by conservationists who fear for migrating birds falling victim to the hundreds of turning turbines, and holiday home owners who fear for their view over sea, have been the main reasons for reluctance in planning and constructing windparks so far. Opponents have gathered at the website


Apart from local resistance against the wind parks, there is also the immense investment needed to beef up renewable sources at the rate the German government projects. Stern magazine (19/2009) cites a government report by the German environment ministry that calculates from 2006 that until 2025 an additional 117 billion euros will have to be invested in renewable energy.
The good news is that after that, energy costs would be lower since sun and wind are for free. In between 2025 and 2050 no less than 330 billion euros would be saved on energy costs.
Stern magazine rightly asks if the present generation will be willing to invest that much to provide their children with cheaper and cleaner energy.