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Power places - 4. Lower Saxony

WORLDWIDE: Lower Saxony is a true wind pioneer. Stretching across north-west Germany - from the Netherlands in the west to the former West German border with the Eastern Bloc - it was one of two regions that led the nation's charge to become a wind superpower in the early years of the global industry. Some of the first wind projects at local level, known as Burgerwindparks, were established in Lower Saxony. These projects were financed by individuals who provided small amounts of money that were then channelled into wind project funds. Although these developments were small compared with today's utility-scale projects, they acted as a catalyst for growth in Germany and helped turn the country into the world wind energy leader for most of the past decade. This, in turn, has created tens of thousands of jobs in the sector in Germany - many of them in Lower Saxony.

Although the region's economy is weak compared with those in other parts of the former West Germany, this has helped the public embrace the wind sector as an economic catalyst and high-value employer. Enercon, one of the largest manufacturers of wind turbines in the world and a strong driver for technical innovation, is based in Aurich in the western part of Lower Saxony; GE is located in the south of the region.

The unusual geography of Lower Saxony means the wind cluster here is effectively boosted by wind jobs that are, strictly speaking, outside the state's official borders. The city-state of Bremen and its coastal annex Bremerhaven are enclaves surrounded by Lower Saxony, while the city-state of Hamburg borders it to the north-east (see map). Both city- states are wind industry heartlands, meaning that the cluster of wind employment in the Lower Saxony area is effectively even larger than regional employment statistics suggest.

As with other German states, the main driver for wind power development in Lower Saxony is the German Renewable Act (REA). Becoming law in 2001 and amended several times since, the act provides feed-in tariffs for electricity generated from renewable sources. Apart from securing revenue levels for wind projects, the REA generally compels grid operators to connect wind farms to the grid. Along with other features of the act, this has helped to significantly reduce the risks associated with wind projects.

Lower Saxony also benefits from Germany's ambitious renewables targets - the country aims to double the contribution renewables make to electricity supply to more than 30% by 2020. And, as with other German states, Lower Saxony's sector is buoyed by the privileged status wind has in the construction planning process - it is judged to be wholly of benefit to the public.

However, the future is not entirely secure for Lower Saxony; like all German wind power areas, it risks becoming a victim of its own success. The saturation of onshore wind and the subsequent slump in the supply of available sites for new development is likely to lead to a slowdown in onshore development here. Meanwhile, as in Saxony-Anhalt, the integration of wind power into the electricity grid, and transmission to the demand centres, represents a further challenge as the sector's share of the energy market continues to grow. Furthermore, because most of the electricity in Germany is consumed in central and southern parts of the country, wind energy generated in Lower Saxony needs to be transported over relatively long distances, presenting a number of logistical problems.

Lower Saxony, Germany


FOR

  • Feed-in tariff
  • Ambitious renewables targets
  • Construction permit privileges
  • Wind industry cluster
  • Public acceptance

AGAINST

  • Grid bottlenecks
  • Site saturaton

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