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German Wind Power Expansion Plummets Sharply

The first nine months of 2019 were the weakest for wind energy in Germany in 20 years, as new figures from Fachagentur Windenergie an Land (FA) show. Just 148 new turbines with 507 MW were connected to the grid in the country of former eco-electricity pioneer Germany during this period.

The expansion of wind power in Germany plummeted sharply in 2019 - and an end is currently not in sight. The mid-year figures were already well below the average for previous years, with only 87 new turbines erected, and they don't look much better with the months up to September added.

Just 148 wind turbines with a total capacity of 507 MW were connected to the grid in the first three quarters of 2019. This means that the newly installed turbine capacity is 82 percent below the average installed capacity in the first three quarters of the previous five years, as the FA shows in its latest report.

Newly installed wind energy capacity (gross) after every nine months in recent years; data: BNetzA, ÜNB (01-07/2014) (Evaluation and graph: FA Wind)

Most wind turbines were installed in the federal state of Lower Saxony with 36 turbines, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia with 21 turbines and Brandenburg with 19. There were no additions at all in the city states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg as well as in Saarland.

There are many reasons for this. However, the main problem still lies in the conversion of the system to auctions and here in particular in the awarded situation in the tender year of 2017, in which more than 90 percent of the funding commitments went to wind projects not yet approved under immission control law.

The overall lack of political backing is also having a massive impact on the industry. The only thing that remains of the much-noticed 'Windgipfel' (Wind Summit) in September is an action plan by Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, Peter Altmaier, the precise design and implementation of which are in the limelight.

Instead, even more obstacles were placed in the way of further expansion through the 'climate package', which doesn't even deserve this name, adopted by the Federal Government recently. These include a flat-rate distance regulation of 1000 metres to the nearest residential buildings. The individual federal states can introduce exceptions here, but in the end there will be more legal texts and paperwork.

"In the case of onshore wind energy, the climate package is almost counterproductive. Flat-rate distance regulations, no binding facilitation of approval procedures and a lack of quantity structure don't offer any positive prospects. Wind energy must remain an important pillar of climate policy. Today's signal threatens the development of the wind energy industry especially in the international competition for locations and contradicts the commitment of the federal and state governments at the recent 'Wind Summit', says Matthias Zelinger, Managing Director of VDMA Power Systems, summing up the current dilemma.

Permits are not issued quickly enough (Image: Pixabay)

The permits in particular are still one of the biggest problems in Germany. The number of new permits issued is still far too low to cover the annual volume of auctions. While 474 MW of wind turbine capacity was approved in the first quarter, the output fell to 294 MW in the second. In the third quarter, the figure rose again to 424 MW of newly approved capacity. "The approval situation has remained at a low level for almost three years now, with no upward trend foreseeable," says the FA.

Once the approval has been granted, the next hurdles will follow in the form of the many lawsuits, as a result of which the construction of the wind turbines will be at least delayed, if not impossible. An industry survey conducted by the FA in the middle of the year showed that at least 700 MW of approved but not yet realised wind energy capacity are currently being complained about, of which around 380 MW are equipped with a surcharge. On average, the court proceedings take two years; time during which the turbines are generally not allowed to go into operation.

"For months now, we have been making very concrete proposals to finally solve the approval backlog for wind energy together with politicians. But the political reaction from Berlin shows us that the crisis in the wind industry is simply not being taken seriously. Important decisions are delegated away, action periods are extended until next year, while weekly reports of job losses demand action today. Those who force the industry to hold its breath for such a long time needn't be surprised if it dies of shortness of breath", says an angry Hermann Albers, President of the German Wind Association BWE.

The period of time until a turbine is erected increases more and more due to the many complaints (Image: Pixabay)

Much change can't be expected in the remaining three months, so the newly installed capacity by the end of the year will probably not even reach 1,000 MW.

Too little to even begin to achieve the German government's climate protection plans of 65 percent renewables for 2030. And too little to ensure the long-term survival of the German wind industry. The loss of jobs in the last two years is currently estimated at around 40,000. This figure is likely to increase further if politicians don't finally intervene vigorously.

Katrin Radtke
Germany, wind industry, jobs, loss, installation, plummeted, turbine, wind power, Fachagentur für Windenergie an Land, BWE, VDMA, MW, capacity

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