Market focus: renewables development in Hamburg

Gail Rajgor

With the influx of firms to the region gaining pace, a 40% boom in renewables employment between 2011–2015 is forecast for Hamburg.

This article was first published in Renewable Energy Focus magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Aiming for 80% of its electricity supply to come from renewables by 2050, Germany has set itself one of the hardest challenges around. Long backed by some of the most progressive legislation and market frameworks in the world, Germany has become the flagship country for renewable energy deployment worldwide.

A HUB of current renewables activity in Germany is the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. “The renewable energy sector is developing very dynamically,” says the Regional Energy Hamburg Cluster Agency (REHCA), an organisation founded in 2010 and now comprising 150 key players in the area. Overall, between 2008 and 2011, adjusted employment growth in the renewables sector was around 56%, it notes.

“With approximately 24,700 employees, about 1.4% of the total workforce in the Hamburg region works in renewable energies,” it says, with 59% of them working in the city of Hamburg itself. Moreover, “companies in the sector are forecasting an increase in employment of around 40% by 2015”.

Indeed, some 1466 renewable energy firms – spanning manufacturers of components and equipment to project developers and operators to consultants – are active in the metropolis, with 53.5% of them basing the headquarters (HQs) in the city of Hamburg itself.

Big name players

The corporate side, with a particular focus on services, dominates. However, the large equipment manufacturers are also present, most notably in towns and districts like Cuxhaven and Lubeck.

Located between the North Sea and the Baltic, the Hamburg Metropolitan Region has become a particularly important hub for wind power. In fact, the sector has become “the dominant force” in the metropolitan region. Big name wind turbine manufacturers, like Siemens Wind Power and Nordex, have their HQs in the region, and it's also become a hub for wind developers and engineering solution providers.

“Hamburg has now firmly established itself as one of the leading locations for companies in wind power,” says Jan Rispens, managing director of REHCA. “The development of offshore wind energy in Germany is attracting a remarkable number of firms to the area, resulting in many companies coming to Hamburg with their management, distribution and product development activities.”

In 2011 alone, Siemens, Nordex, PowerWind, Gamesa, Areva Wind, GE Wind Energy, Dong Energy, Global Wind Power Germany, Rabobank International, Global Tech 1/Windkraft Union (WKU) and TUV Sud Bereich Offshore-Windenergie all established new offices in Hamburg or boosted their wind power staffing levels in the region.

  • In September 2011, Siemens announced plans to establish its wind power HQ, with a staff of 500, in the region – it already has a centre of excellence in offshore substations there. The market leader in offshore wind power, the firm is aiming to become the third biggest wind turbine manufacturer in the world by the end of this year.
  • Nordex moved its HQ there in January 2011, with 500 employees on site at Hamburg-Langenhorn.
  • PowerWind moved 120 staff to new offices in Hamburg's green building mecca, Hafencity, to expand its activities there last August. The firm manufactures its 900kW and 2.5MW turbines at Bremerhaven, but product development, distribution and corporate management are all heavily concentrated in Hamburg.
  • Spanish wind giant Gamesa established a new offshore branch in Hamburg in June 2011, employing five staff there initially.
  • French energy giant Areva relocated its Areva Wind HQ to Hafencity in May last year, employing 25 people. The firm, which specialises in offshore wind installations and has an order book for around 600MW, is also expanding its production facilities at Bremerhaven.
  • In March 2011, and again in Hafencity, GE Wind Energy opened an offshore technology centre with 60 employees, focusing on product development and application. The company plans to invest €105mn throughout Germany in the offshore sector.
  • Also in March 2011, Danish company Dong Energy moved into new premises in the Docklands of the former fishing port in Hamburg-Altona, employing 12 people. The company is developing the €1.25bn Borkum Riffgrund 1 offshore wind farm in German waters next year.
  • The Germany subsidiary of Denmark's Global Wind Power moved its HQ from Harrislee to Hamburg last year too, employing 11 people.
  • The Global Tech 1 offshore wind project is being developed by WKU, a subsidiary of Windreich AG based near Stuttgart. From offices in Hanfencity, the separate Global Tech 1 project development company employs 30 staff.
  • TUV SUD established a new offshore wind department in Hamburg-Hammerbrook in January 2011, employing 200 people. The department supports planners, construction firms, investors and offshore wind farm operators with certification, technical inspection of offshore structures, risk analyses and complete building monitoring. It also provides production inspection and component monitoring services.

But it's not all wind. The region also has a vibrant solar power industry, with the companies like Conergy Deutschland, Centrosolar, Voltwerk and Velux all located there. In addition, firms involved in the planning, financing and project development of solar PV power plants, such as Colexon, Luxcara, HSH Nordbank and SunEnergy, are also to be found in Hamburg.

Meantime, “by virtue of agricultural tradition, the biomass and biogas industry has a superb power based” in the region,” says REHCA. Indeed, there are more than 240 biogas plants operating there, including Brunsbuttel – one of the largest facilities in the region, the NovusEnergy biomass power station generates 60mn kilowatthours of electricity a year.

Growth forecast

As Germany deliberates how to achieve its ambitious 80% renewables electricity by 2050 plan, the most significant area of employment growth in the Hamburg region is expected to be in the manufacturing of components and equipment, alongside project planning, installation and maintenance, says Rispens. Renewables revenue development is also seeing a “dynamic upwards trend,” with sales growth at around 51% for the period 2008–2011. This is expected to rise to almost 78% from 2011 to 2015.

Hamburg's research landscape is also “well positioned”. It has a variety of colleges and universities, alongside private research institute like CFK-Valley in Stade, the Helmholtz-Zentrum in Geesthacht and the Frauhofer Institute in Itzehoe.

“Wind power and bioenergy comprise the primary focus of research” but it is also “distinguished by work in the areas of fuel cells and hydrogen technologies”, says REHCA. And of course, this is Germany, so with its future ambitions really only viable with effective energy storage and grid integration solutions in place, this too is a key focus of research for Hamburg R&D organisations.

And while manufacturing and corporate activity is seen as a main area of action for the region, opportunities and potential development for Hamburg in terms of renewables are seen “primarily in the expansion of the research landscape” by companies, according to a recent survey conducted by REHCA of both its members and non-members.

Greening the cities

Meantime, the region has taken the concept of R&D a stage further with its Hafencity and Wilhelmsburg projects. Hafencity is described by the region's proponents as a “prime example” of sustainable urban development. The new district – already home to HafinCity University, the Greenpeace Germany head offices and Greenpeace Energy eG (an energy provider), the Spiegel Group publishing house, and the Unilever European head office, will eventually expand Hamburg's city centre by 40%, making use and reclaiming large unused parts of the city's historic industrial port sites.

Moreover, it is being built using eco-friendly construction methods with buildings that excel awarded gold or silver eco-labels, based on their energy efficiency, materials used and maintenance regimes. Based on current planning, at least 30% of building in the Hafencity's central and east areas will be able to comply with the requirements of the gold eco-label. In the future, all residential buildings will have to live up to the standards defined by the gold standard in fact.

And as you would expect, renewable energy plays a major role in terms of designed-in energy supply. The buildings – including Hamburg's new cultural landmark, the Philharmonic Hall, currently under construction and designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron – use the latest in building integrated solar PV technology for electricity, solar heating, geothermal, and small-scale wind power (for example to power ventilation systems) along with energy efficient building control systems. Meantime, a sustainable heat supply is achieved using a central CO2-reduced heating network to cater for the west of Hafencity's district heating, solar thermal energy and fuel cells. The east of the city will be heated using a local heat system via biomethane fuel cells, wood burning and heat pumps.

Renewable Wilhelmsburg

In another part of Hamburg, the island district of Wilhelmsburg is also being transformed into a “climate-neutral” district. The €100mn project – referred to as Renewable Wilhelmsburg – is part of the city's International Building Exhibition initiative and aims for the area's energy supply to come from local sources.

As well as creating around 230 new jobs by 2050, energy demand is expected to fall thanks to the high construction standards, says Uli Hellweg, chief executive of IBA Hamburg.

Two key elements of the Renewable Wilhelmsburg project are the Energy Hill and the Energy Bunker. The Energy Hill is a former toxic landfill site. It has been cleaned up and now produces energy using solar heating, wind, landfill gas and grass cuttings. The long-term aim is to supply 4000 households with energy produced at the site.

A flak bunker from the Second World War is being transformed into an energy generation plant. Now known as the Energy Bunker, it is still undergoing refurbishment, but already has solar panels on the roof and façade. Inside the bunker, there is a biomass-fired combined heat and power plant.

A “virtual power plant” will connect the district's energy sources, such as those from the Energy Hill. “By bundling user-groups with different load times, synergies can be achieved that will dramatically improve an individual buildings’ performance,” says Hellweg.

This article was first published in Renewable Energy Focus magazine. Click here to subscribe.

About: Gail Rajgor is Managing Editor of Renewable Energy Focus.

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