„It's our task to provide technological answers“
new energy: What is your assessment of Hamburg as a location for the international wind fair in comparison to Husum?
Andreas von Bobart: The significantly better infrastructure is a decisive argument for Hamburg. The flair associated with Husum as the cradle of the German wind sector cannot compete with it. International guests, particularly those travelling from further afield, are entitled to a better infrastructure, which Husum couldn’t provide. It begins with access, and extends to the logistics of the exhibition halls and cultural opportunities.
The wind energy sector has grown up, and Hamburg is now an ideal platform for its leading fair. Nevertheless, we have also already made the decision to attend Husum next year – our rooms are already booked. Our hope is that Husum will evolve into the leading event for the German market.
new energy: Do four different fairs stand a chance in the current environment?
Andreas von Bobart: The participating companies will each have to decide for themselves. We intend to take part in one international event per year besides the national one, i.e. Hamburg, EWEA, Husum.
new energy: Will the amendment to the German Renewables Act (EEG) slow down the expansion of wind energy?
Andreas von Bobart: The figures for 2014 and 2015 will show that discussion about the Renewables Act, particularly with regard to the deadline regulations, has triggered a significant anticipatory effect. This year we will surpass the German expansion target of 2.5 gigawatts (GW) by a significant margin. In the coming years, the market could level out at around this figure. I do not anticipate additional acceleration, nor do I consider it necessary for the time being.
The amendment appears in itself to be a step in the right direction, not least in light of the previously steadily rising Renewables Act surcharge. Against the backdrop of the European market, tenders are another impending issue that must be dealt with. At GE, what we want is for policy-makers to make it clear, as soon as possible, precisely what the model will look like. A longer period of uncertainty simply means, as always, that investment decisions are delayed, which is bad for the industry. What is more, the mistakes made with tenders in other countries must not be repeated. In particular with regard to the issue of decentralisation, we would like to see a model designed to permit variety in terms of technology, and, even more importantly, in terms of industry players. The switch to renewables currently rests on a great many shoulders. It would be fatal if these players were to be deprived of the fruits of their efforts, and the market left to a small number of major operators.
If the question of whether the switch to renewables could be under threat from the introduction of tender models is being discussed, then it is our task to provide technological answers and solutions. The goal is to reduce electricity generation costs. There is a growing trend towards turbines with a higher capacity, larger rotors. As far as towers are concerned, besides increasing hub heights even further, cost-cutting potential can be offered in the form of innovative concepts such as the enclosed lattice Space Frame Tower. With regard to existing turbines, we see opportunities to boost capacity by implementing intelligent systems, increased data exchange and improved analysis tools. Furthermore, we must devote a great deal of attention to the matter of continued operation, offering technological solutions which enable turbines to run for longer in locations where repowering is not an option. Moreover: the additional profits achievable by means of a larger rotor are simple to calculate. What is not so simple to calculate are the logistical costs in relation to this increase in profit. There comes a point at which the ever-growing components can no longer be transported across the country so easily.
new energy: Which regions in Germany are you concentrating on, and how many megawatts (MW) do you plan to install?
Andreas von Bobart: We have a very clear focus on areas with poor wind conditions. We plan to install 100 new turbines by the end of the year, and intend to increase this figure further next year.
new energy: Do you also invest in other sectors of renewable energy?
Andreas von Bobart: We are very active in R&D, particularly with regard to grids. The switch to renewables can only work if there is a close link between producers and consumers. To this end, smarter communication must be made possible for turbines in wind farms, and the connections between power plants, consumers and storage facilities must be improved. This is why we are doubling the staff of our research centre in Munich from 200 to 400, for instance. Our goal is not simply to maximise profit, but also to promote development. This includes projects such as Energy Storage, i.e. the connections between storage facilities and generation plants, battery storage trials, and a hybrid plant in Berlin aimed at combining PV and storage.