It sounds like a cheer, but it isn’t. “We are already at the level of 2019”, assures Anna-Kathrin Wallasch when the film with the bars finally appears on the screens. Wallasch works for the consultancy firm Deutsche Windguard, he collects the figures for the expansion of wind power. And if as many new wind turbines have been installed after six months in 2021 as after a full year in 2019, that’s already something. If 2019 hadn’t been so terribly weak for the industry.
Tuesday, the German wind lobby presented its half-year report, it should at least mark a turnaround. Wind turbines with a total output of 971 megawatts were installed on land in the first six months, 62% more than in the spring of 2020 from Corona. “We have hit rock bottom,” said Hermann Albers, president of the German Wind Energy Association (BWE). And this after four years “which have not been easy”. For the year as a whole, BWE and the mechanical engineering association VDMA now expect between 2.2 and 2.4 gigawatts of new wind power. This equates to between 550 and 600 new wind turbines – at least for the large systems that are now common.
Only: none of this is enough. At the end of July, wind turbines with a total capacity of nearly 56 gigawatts were connected to the grid in Germany. To make the republic climate neutral by 2045, according to experts, wind turbines with a power of 80 gigawatts should be on land only by 2030, and an additional 25 gigawatts at sea. If there are fewer wind farms in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, more will be required on land as a result.
Many wind turbines age and need to be dismantled
The question is made more difficult by the fact that thousands of wind turbines are aging at the same time. In the first half of the year alone, 135, mostly smaller, systems were dismantled across Germany. It also frees up slots for larger systems. But the bottom line is that the expansion will narrow to 831 megawatts. It is therefore all the more necessary to build new ones to effectively reach 80 gigawatts of wind power by 2030. Berlin-based think tank Agora Energiewende also assumes an average of five gigawatts that will need to be built each year – more double what was estimated for this year. “And we must also make up for lost years”, explains Patrick Graichen, boss of Agora-Energiewende. If none of this succeeds, Germany’s fine climate and energy targets will be a long way off. “In fact, we need two percent of the country’s land area for wind power, and that too in countries like Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia,” says Graichen. The Union must understand this at the latest in the coalition negotiations. “Otherwise, there will be a rude awakening. “
After all, renewable electricity is to be used in more and more places in the future: in an increasing number of electric cars, in electric heat pumps in buildings, and after conversion to “green” hydrogen, also in heavy or air traffic. It was only recently that Federal Minister of the Economy Peter Altmaier (CDU) had to raise the forecast for German electricity consumption in 2030 by ten percent to 655 terawatt hours. As a result, more wind turbines and solar parks will be needed to achieve a 65% green electricity share by then. This is currently the official goal. “We need a lot more renewable energy and we need a faster pace of expansion to be able to meet our ambitious climate goals,” said Altmaier himself. He estimates that “we will have to further increase the expansion of renewable energies to a third.”.
“Anyone who says climate protection must also build wind turbines.”
On the other hand, the Greens accuse the Union in particular of having delayed the development of renewable energies. The CDU and CSU have “vehemently” blocked expansion, for example with minimum permits in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, criticizes Green Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock. “Anyone who says climate protection must also build wind turbines.”
At least economically, the conditions for this are not bad. “Wind energy is bearing fruit at the moment, also in view of the high prices of emissions trading,” says energy economist Andreas Löschel, head of the expert commission for the evaluation of energy transition. This makes wind power cheaper than coal power. “What is lacking, however, is long term reliability.” Often there was a lack of space and the approval process was lengthy. And finally, wind turbines still encountered reserves in many places. “You have to take people at their word,” says Löschel, after all everyone currently wants more climate protection. “And here you have to be clear: it won’t work if the expansion stops.”