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3 March 2020

Making the most of offshore wind

Re-evaluating the potential of offshore wind in the German North Sea

Making the Most of Offshore Wind


As part of its European Green Deal, the European Commission has announced to present a strategy on offshore wind in 2020. Such a strategy is urgently needed as reaching a climate-neutral Europe will require a massive expansion of offshore wind energy.

This raises the question whether energy models used today by wind farm planners and investors can adequately capture the interaction effects between turbines stemming from very large areas covered with offshore wind farms at high installed capacity density. To better understand such effects, Agora Energiewende and Agora Verkehrswende commissioned the Department of Wind Energy at the
Technical University of Denmark as well as the Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry to simulate future offshore wind expansion scenarios for the German section of the North Sea with two distinct modelling approaches. This study presents the findings, and it underscores the importance of the role of the state in planning for a future with a lot more offshore wind energy.

Key findings

  1. Offshore wind energy, which has an installed capacity potential of up to 1,000 GW, is a key pillar of the European energy transition.

    The net-zero decarbonization scenarios contained in the European Commission’s Long-Term Strategy assume some 400 to 450 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2050. Additional demand of up to 500 GW may be created by dedicating offshore farms to electrolysis for renewable hydrogen production.

  2. Scenarios projecting near climate neutrality by 2050 assume an installed capacity of 50 to 70 GW of offshore wind in Germany, generating some 200 to 280 TWh of electricity per year.

    Given the 8 GW of installed capacity today and current plans for 20 GW by 2030, the pace of spatial planning for offshore wind deployment needs to pick up significantly. The slowing of onshore wind development could further enhance the importance of offshore wind in achieving net zero.

  3. Offshore wind power needs sufficient space, as the full load operating time may otherwise shrink from currently around 4,000 hours per year to between 3,000 and 3,300 hours.

    The more turbines are installed in a region, the less efficient offshore wind production becomes due to a lack of wind recovery. If Germany were to install 50 to 70 GW solely in the German Bight, the number of full-load hours achieved by offshore wind farms would decrease considerably.

  4. Countries on the North and Baltic Seas should cooperate with a view to maximizing the wind yield and full-load hours of their offshore wind farms.

    In order to maximize the efficiency and potential of offshore wind, the planning and development of wind farms – as well as broader maritime spatial planning – should be intelligently coordinated across national borders. This finding is relevant to both the North and Baltic Seas. In addition, floating offshore wind farms could enable the creative integration of deep waters into wind farm planning.

Bibliographical data

Jake Badger, Marc Imberger, Patrick Volker, Axel Kleidon, Sonja Germer, Jonathan Minz
Publication number
Version number
Publication date

3 March 2020

Suggested Citation
Agora Energiewende, Agora Verkehrswende, Technical University of Denmark and Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry (2020): Making the Most of Offshore Wind: Re-Evaluating the Potential of Offshore Wind in the German North Sea.
This publication was produced within the framework of the project Offshore Wind Potential.


All figures in this publication