Plans to build up to 40 offshore wind farms could lead to thousands of new jobs in the renewable energy sector and lower Germany’s dependence on nuclear energy, according to Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee

The wind farms would be built in German waters more than 12 miles off the coast and consists of some 2,500 turbines. Together they would produce more than 12,000 megawatts of energy, which could supply power to 12 million households, the Transport Ministry said.

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“This would bring us closer to our goal of producing 25,000 megawatts offshore by 2030,” Tiefensee told the daily Hamburger Abendblatt.

He added that the ministry had approved some of the 2,500 applications received by his office for wind turbines in the North and Baltic seas. Tiefensee told the paper he would present a proposal for the wind farms at a Cabinet meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.

Costs for the new wind farms have not yet been established, a spokesperson for the Transport Ministry told the Hamburg newspaper.

The move comes as politicians debate the continued use of nuclear power in Germany and how to deal with the radioactive waste it generates.

“The current discussion about the nuclear waste depot Gorleben shows once again very clearly that we need to expand renewable energy,” said Tiefensee, who is a member of the center-left Social Democrats.

Dozens of farms already approved

Of the 40 wind farms planned, 30 would be in the North Sea and 10 in the Baltic Sea. Twenty-two have already received government approval and Berlin intends to set aside some 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) for offshore power projects. Most will be built near the East Frisian Islands.

“We are securing and creating jobs in one of the markets of the future,” Tiefensee said, adding that wind farms could mean 30,000 jobs in Germany. “We want Germany to be at the fore of this technology.”

Approval has already been given for 22 offshore wind farms in the North Sea and another three in the Baltic with a total of 1,800 turbines, according to Christian Dahmke of Germany’s Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency. He added that officials were considering another 55 applications.

Germany isn’t out to sea alone

Over the last week a number of similar announcements have been made in other European countries, indicating that wind energy will gain greater prominence in the political and public debates over renewable energy.

Turbine maker GE Electric announced Thursday that it signed agreements to supply what would become the largest European on-shore wind farm in Romania, while oil-nation Norway said the same day it had authorized its first ever off-shore wind facility.

Planning for huge wind farms out at sea has been going on for years, but little tangible progress had actually been made. Technical problems have been a main challenge.

The head of the European Wind Energy Association, Christian Kjaer, on Monday also called on EU governments to give a clear signal of their support to the wind power industry.

Up to 16 percent of all energy consumed in the EU could come from wind farms by 2020. Plans for such offshore facilities would cost 57 billion euros ($83 billion) with transmission lines costing between 20 and 30 billion euros, the organization estimated.

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