German onshore wind power drops in first half of 2015

1.1GW of onshore wind power was installed in the first half of 2015, a one-third decrease compared to the same time last year. [Windwärts Energie/Flickr]

The rapid expansion of onshore wind energy in Germany has slowed significantly in the first half of 2015, with the industry representatives saying it is now up to the German government but also the EU. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Over the first six months of this year, wind turbine installations decreased compared to the period last year. According to data from the German Wind Energy Association (BWE), there were 1.1GW in new installations within the first half of 2015 – one-third less than over the same period last year.

But with 443 newly constructed wind turbines, the industry is still enjoying the second-best result in the history of onshore wind energy. The increase is equivalent to the amount of power generated from one nuclear power station.

“The decrease turned out to be relatively large but we are still working at full power. This is still a good result,” explained BWE president Hermann Albers on Thursday (30 July) in Berlin.

He indicated that the drop in installations is likely due to the fact that 2014 was a record year. Last year, many wind turbine builders upped priority on their projects in anticipation of impending reforms to Germany’s renewable energies law (EEG) and the upcoming discussion on energy prices.

“But I do not want to hide the fact that the EEG amendment (in force since August 2014) is showing its first effects,” Albers said. The “repowering bonus” was removed, he explained, meaning many turbine constructors could have avoided replacing older power plants with more efficient systems.

Wind power industry predicts upward trend

But the Wind Energy Association expects another significant increase in installations for the second half of the year because financial support will drop in 2016.

Overall, it predicts at least 4GW of new potential power will be installed in 2015. Added to this is the expansion of wind energy along the coast with at least 2GW.

For 2016, however, the association’s president Albers sees dark clouds coming in. Not only will support from the EEG decrease, but the association also expects a rise in interest rate levels. In addition, the government’s planned tendering model for wind energy is causing “considerable uncertainty among mid-sized” operators.

The German government is currently working out key points for a system in which the subsidisation levels for renewable energy would be announced via a tendering process by 2017 at the latest. This would replace the existing system of legally specified subsidisation rates.

Insecurity factor in the tendering model

The Wind Energy Association rejects the possible tender and has called on the EU to conduct a study on the effectiveness of subsidisation measures, which would show that a feed-in model “is far and away at the top” of the list, Albers said. A similar study was published ten years ago

However, if the tendering process is implemented according to plans by the German government, a cautious transition should begin in 2017, he emphasised, taking medium-term reduction into account. Furthermore, the government must plan for a much larger annual tendering volume – far beyond 2,500GW.

>>Read: Germany sees fourfold increase in renewables since 2000

The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) is already calling for clarity on the tendering process for 2016.

“We have got to stop the up and down,” criticised Matthias Zelinger from the VDMA. The German Economic Affairs Ministry must issue clear rules regarding the tendering process.

“Wind turbine manufacturers are burdened by the constant shift between phases of investment restraint due to uncertain future conditions and phases of a clearance-like atmosphere with advance purchasing effects,” Zelinger pointed out.

Environmental protection stunts wind power expansion

Rising standards in environmental impact assessments are also hindering further expansion of wind energy on land, explained the association’s president Albers. 20-30% of potential surface area for wind energy is automatically lost due to environmental protection, he said.

Politicians must take this fact into consideration so that the current volume of net usable surface area for wind power can be maintained, Albers warned.

In order to reach Germany’s climate targets, the German government is planning an annual growth of around 2.5GW each for wind power on land as well as solar power.

In 2014, photovoltaics only grew by around 1.9GW. With installed potential power of approximately 40GW each, solar and wind energy make up the most critical share of renewables.

Offshore wind energy hits record high in Europe–with Germany at the forefront

In the first six months of 2015, Europe’s offshore wind industry installed more capacity than in any full year recorded, in part because larger wind turbines were used. In its new report released on Thursday (30 July), the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) credits the European boom to Germany’s leading stance on wind energy. Kristian Ruby, chief policy officer at EWEA, said the new statistics show “a commitment to offshore wind development in Europe, a number of completed projects, explosive growth in Germany and the use of higher capacity wind turbines are major contributors to these numbers.”

The EWEA report lists Germany as number one in Europe for the number of megawatts fully connected to the grid (1,706.3), the number of turbines connected (406), the number of new turbines set up between January and June 2015 (218), the number of foundations installed (75) and the number of offshore wind farms (9).

Europe could have saved itself $100 billion (€86bn) by installing solar power panels in sunnier countries and wind turbines in windier places, the World Economic Forum's "Future of Electricity" platform said in a report released in January.

The report, written with consultancy Bain, added that another $40 bilion (€34.5bn) could have been saved by better cross-border coordination and bigger power cables between countries.

>>Read: Europe's renewable energy deployment 'sub-optimal', report says

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