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Germany's Energy Stromautobahn Gamble

Updated on August 31, 2014
Bard 1 Wind Farm in the North Sea
Bard 1 Wind Farm in the North Sea
The Stromautobahn (the electricity highway)
The Stromautobahn (the electricity highway)
The 230 ft. towers needed for the highway
The 230 ft. towers needed for the highway

Electricity is expensive in Germany. It has jumped up by 60% in the past five years. The German industry is quickly losing its competitive edge as government subsidies end. Prices are double what they are in the USA and China.

The Stromautobahn will cost TRILLIONS of euros, involve stringing high-voltage cables hundreds of miles from the the windy North Sea at Wilster to Grafenrheinfeld. When completed in 2025, it is expected to produce 40% of Germany's electricity from wind energy and will help wean off fossil fuels and nuclear energy. By 2050, it will be 80%. In dollars, the project will cost $1.5 trillion, which is 50% of the country's GNP. Two things is causing the dramatic energy shift: the nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 and German companies moving out of the country to the USA (like VW, Mercedes) because of high energy costs.

Electricity in Germany has tripled since 2010, and accounts for about 20% of a household's or business costs. Even with subsidies from the government, which amount to over $24 billion yearly, costs continue to rise. Many companies receive an exemption from paying surcharges that help pay for this huge project. This is has been called unfair because those not exempt (everyone else) pay them and surcharges continue to increase as it is built. These companies save about $5 billion annually, so they are quite content. To illustrate how energy costs lure German companies away, the German chip maker, Infineon, pays $25 million more for energy than it would if it moved next door in Austria.

The new Stromautobahn will string more than 4000 miles of high-voltage lines offshore to onshore from the North Sea to Germany's industrial center when completed. However, only 220 miles have been completed so far. These lines will move through, in the air, across large cities and towns. The plan is to use 1000 wind giant turbines located in the North Sea to Wilster, at the mouth of the Elbe River. Currently, there are only 80. Converter stations located there will then send the electricity to 500 miles south. There is opposition as towns and locals fight the installation of a 230 foot power tower littler their area. Local governments are saying, " not in our backyard". The Bard Offshore 1 is equivalent in size of Flensburg and is located 60 miles northwest of Borkum Island in the North Sea. This one 'wind farm" will provide 400 megawatts, roughly corresponding to the consumption of all private households in the Greater Munich area. It takes about nine months to install that many wind turbines.

There is another pressing reason why Germany is doing this: the nine nuclear plants that create the country's electricity are going offline in 2022. If the new plan is not completed by then, Germany will have to resort in creating its needs by other means.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 3 years ago

      Thanks, this is what happens when "being Green" overrides all

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I still have my doubts about these projects. To unilaterally take yourself off nuclear puts your country in a very tight spot and also hurts your standing worldwide. Why? Think Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Dependency breeds instability. Germany needs to be energy independent now. Why destroy your economy and your bargaining power on a "hope." I like wind power, but extremism in this way is a vice. Perry, as usual, thought- provoking article. Voted up and shared.

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      Howard Schneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub and information, Perrya. I applaud the Germans for taking this step away from fossil fuels. It is bold and costly but it will save money in the future and provide for a cleaner environment.