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Converter platforms from Germany: Showdown in Rostock

For almost a year, Dutch company Smulders has been struggling to settle in Rostock, Germany. Smulders wants to build transformer platforms for offshore wind farms on a partial area of the port there. Now a decision is apparently imminent. 1,000 jobs are at stake - and also the future of Germany as an offshore wind location.

The port of Rostock-Warnemünde is currently the focus of the European offshore wind industry (Image: Pixabay)The port of Rostock-Warnemünde is currently the focus of the European offshore wind industry (Image: Pixabay)

Just last week, the German offshore wind industry sounded the alarm: "A look at the German ports makes it particularly clear how much needs to happen in the next few years. In order to create logistics centres for the offshore wind industry in a timely manner, enormous expansion and conversion measures are necessary," a broad alliance of industry organisations declared in a jointly published paper. "Investment decisions must be made here as quickly as possible so that the insufficiency of the port infrastructure does not become a cork in the expansion of offshore wind energy in Germany."

A current example of precisely these problems is the southern part of the naval arsenal in Rostock-Warnemünde on the Baltic Sea. Following the insolvency of the MV Shipyards, the site was taken over in its entirety by the Federal Ministry of Defence and the Naval Arsenal, which now has its ships maintained and repaired there. But almost a year ago, the Minister of Economic Affairs of the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where Rostock is located, Reinhard Meyer (Social Democrats), said that a third of the area was not necessary for this purpose. And instead of allowing a warehouse for NATO material there, the Ministry of Defence could lease the area to the Dutch company Smulders. "But it's a hitch because the ministry won't release the land," Meyer said.

Smulders is an international company with more than 1,400 employees spread across branches in Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and Poland and has more than 50 years of experience in engineering, construction, delivery and assembly of steel structures. This includes foundation components such as transition pieces or jackets for offshore wind turbines as well as offshore converter platforms weighing several tonnes. And it is precisely these platforms that could be built in Rostock in the future. So far, the Dragados Shipyard in Cadiz (Spain) is the only plant in Europe that is capable of producing the required 2-GW converter platforms. This also means that all platforms for German offshore wind farms are manufactured abroad and then towed to the wind farms. And potential sites for such factories are scarce: "Currently, only the southern part of the Naval Arsenal of the MV Shipyard in Rostock-Warnemünde or the site in Bremerhaven come into question for this - taking into account, among other things, the necessary upgrading of the quay edge," says the Offshore Alliance.

Germany is counting on the expansion of offshore wind energy, to 30 gigawatts by 2030 and 70 GW by 2045, not only for direct power supply, but also to convert the energy into hydrogen, for example, to further decarbonise the economy. The development of a comprehensive supply chain, also domestically, is therefore of great importance for Germany as a business location, as Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck of the Green Party also emphasised last week at the HUSUM Wind trade fair.

In the future, converter platforms for offshore wind farms are to be built in the port of Rostock (Image: Pixabay)

In January, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and the Ministry of Defence, led by Boris Pistorius (Social Democrats), held talks about the project, but the ministry had security concerns about the location. But these now seem to have been resolved, as German media NDR reports. And so Defence Minister Boris Pistorius could officially announce the future civilian use of the site during his visit to Rostock today.

This could create up to 1,000 new industrial jobs on the site. In addition, Germany would further reduce its dependence on foreign countries. "Manufacturers of turbines and components are expanding their production capacities for offshore wind energy in Europe and worldwide, but still face cost pressures on the supply chain. Strengthening the European offshore wind supply chain is therefore urgently needed. As a logistics centre and backbone of the energy transition, the port infrastructure, for example, must be upgraded to more heavy-load capable port locations. The ports also need more space for production, manufacturing, handling, storage and recycling of components for the offshore wind farms. These necessary developments also offer a high potential for value creation and employment in Germany and Europe," states the 'Industrial Policy Recommendations' formulated by the offshore wind industry.

Today, the entire European offshore wind industry is therefore likely to look to Rostock.

Update: As expected, Germany's Defence Minister Boris Pistorius has released the area for civilian use, so that Smulders, among others, can now settle there.

Katrin Radtke
Germany, Rostock, Smulders, site, port, converter platform, manufacturing, Baltic Sea, offshore, wind farm, Europe, GW, expansion

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