As a first and important step in connection with the immediate action program for the new energy concept of the German Government, the latter intends to simplify the approval procedure for offshore wind farms in the Exclusive Economic Zone. In this context, the Cabinet approved a draft legislation presented by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development regarding an amendment of shipping-law rules at the beginning of May. The Exclusive Economic Zone ("EEZ") refers to an area of up to approximately 200 nautical miles beyond the territorial sea in which the Federal Republic of Germany exercises restricted public authority.
The object of the draft bill is, among other things, to concentrate the decision-making powers regarding new wind-power stations with one authority and, thus speeding up procedures. Accordingly, the sole point of contact for applications for the construction of wind turbines is intended to be the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie, "BSH") in the future.
According to currently applicable law, the construction of new wind-power stations also requires the separate consent of the German Federal Environmental Agency (Bundesamtes für Naturschutz, "BfN"), which examines the effects of the power plant on its maritime environment, especially with regard to fish, seabirds and, as was repeatedly the case in the past, criticized negative consequences on the maritime environment due to the construction of wind-power plants. According to the draft law, the statements of the BfN are intended to be taken into consideration only in internal procedures of the BSH in the future.
It was also at the beginning of May that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially put the first commercial wind farm located in the Baltic Sea into operation: the Baltic 1 Offshore Wind Farm, comprising 21 wind-power stations and a substation platform weighing 1,000 tons on an area of seven square kilometres. Due to various difficulties in during the construction as well as the grid connection, the construction of the wind farm was slower than originally expected. Due to the fact that the German Federal Government considers the expansion of wind energy the key factor for the energy turnaround it has announced, the Chancellor's putting into operation of the wind farm indeed also has a symbolic meaning in the sense of a starting point for a whole package of measures (cf. in this regard also the article by Dr. Matthias Land in this issue) for reaching the era of renewable energies faster, especially also with the help of the expansion of wind power. Apart from simplifying the approval procedure as described above, among other things, wind farms comprising several thousand wind-energy power plants are intended to be set up in German waters in the North Sea and in the Baltic Sea over the next few years. According to statements of the BSH, permission for 23 offshore wind farms comprising a total of 1611 wind turbines and an installed electrical capacity of 7650 megawatt ("MW") in the North Sea and three parks with an installed capacity of 1040 MW has been granted so far. In order to make the expansion of offshore wind energy more attractive for investors, an increase of the feed-in compensation to be paid is intended according to the current plans on the reform on Renewable Energy Act (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz "EEG") which is only intended to be paid for a shorter period of time, however.