The blades began turning on Germany's first offshore wind farm this week -- the starting signal for the construction of hundreds of additional sea-based turbines
Erected 28 miles off the North Sea coast, the Alpha Ventus farm consists of 12 wind turbines -- each nearly as high as the Washington Monument -- that are to generate enough power for nearly 50,000 households. German utilities Eon and EWE as well as Sweden's Vattenfall invested $333 million in the project, which is to pave the way for similar farms to be built near Germany's coastlines in the coming years.
"The use of offshore wind power will play a central role in the energy of the future," Germany's Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said before cutting the ribbon on the wind farm. "Alpha Ventus is the beginning, it is the pioneer for us, and it will lead the way to the age of renewables."
Germany has ambitious clean energy targets; the share of renewables in the power mix is to grow to more than 30 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2030, up from 16 percent today.
While the country has pioneered commercial onshore wind power production, growth on land is limited. Some 21,000 turbines are already turning in Germany, and recent plans to replace aging ones with more powerful -- and thus bigger ones -- have drawn public opposition.
That's why companies are moving at sea. Offshore construction and maintenance is difficult and costly but the wind blows stronger and steadier, resulting in a greater power yield than on land.
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