Germany opened its first offshore wind farm this week, with Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel hailing what he called a key step toward more reliance on renewable energy in Europe's biggest economy.
Gabriel says the future of energy lies in offshore wind power
Gabriel pressed the start button at the complex in Jadebusen near Hooksiel, just off Germany's North Sea coast, in a ceremony on Tuesday that marked the start of commercial use of offshore wind power in Germany.
The five megawatts produced at the pilot site will flow into the gas and electrical station in the coastal city of Wilhelmshaven, enough to serve 5,000 households.
Germany plans to build more offshore wind farms
"Offshore wind power is of key importance for our future energy supply and a decisive factor in achieving our expansion goals for renewable energy," Gabriel said. "The start of operations at this pilot plant is an important step that shows we are making progress."
The Hooksiel plant is intended as a prototype for a park with 80 turbines 100 kilometers off the coast of the North Sea island of Borkum, construction on which is to begin early next year.
The Netherlands and Denmark already have offshore wind farms, while last week saw Britain declared a world leader in wind power generation, as its Government announced a major program to cut the cost of off-shore wind farms. Also on board the scheme are five international players in the offshore wind industry, including German RWE Innogy.
Denmark has been overtaken by Britain as the world's wind power leader
Germany has in fact dragged its heels in the sector, due to the relatively high cost of offshore wind power plants, but now has little choice but to pursue such plans as it is running out of suitable land.
The share of renewable energy used in the production of electricity grew to 14 percent in 2007 from 11.5 percent the previous year, according to the German government, which has targeted 30 percent by 2020, the most ambitious target in the EU.
By 2030, Germany hopes to be providing 15 percent of households with electricity produced at offshore wind farms, the equivalent of around 25,000 megawatts.