The state government hopes that by increasing the amount of land prioritised for wind farms from 0.23% to 1%, developers will have more choice of locations and will therefore not have to site wind farms in sensitive areas. It is keen to avoid a repeat of the controversy over the wind turbine permits near Wartburg Castle (see box, right).
Work on updating the regional spatial plans in the regions of middle, east, south-west and north Thuringen is under way. So far, sites totalling about 4,300 hectares have been proposed for wind energy use - space for about 1.3GW, including the existing 717MW. But investigations have revealed that significantly more areas could be considered for inclusion in the spatial plans.
Following the example of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein by making 1% of its land area available for wind energy, Thuringen could provide 16,000 hectares - space for 1.6-2.5GW of new capacity, the Thuringen economy ministry has estimated. This would raise the state's wind fleet to a substantial 2.3-3.2GW, more than enough to meet the state's target of a 35% renewables share in net electricity generation by 2020.
The government expects economic benefits to go hand in hand with the wind energy expansion. Over the 20-year operating period of a 2.3MW turbine generating six million kWh/year, the local tax revenue totals about EUR400,000, or up to EUR1 million from a 6MW turbine. The local parish benefits from at least 70% of this, claims a paper produced by the ministry and local wind, industry and environmental groups.
Farmers leasing out sites for wind turbines can earn around 5% of the feed-in tariff rate for wind-generated electricity. For a 2.3MW turbine, generating about six million kWh/year and a turnover of EUR570,000, this amounts to around EUR28,000 a year. Neighbours of the wind stations can also benefit by taking stakes in wind project investment funds to earn a regular and secure dividend, the paper states.
At the same time, several thousand new jobs could be created in new factories and service centres in Thuringen. Wind turbine builder Enercon already plans a new service point in Hermsdorf, while Schuler, a technology and engineering company, plans a production facility for its new gearless 2.7MW turbines in Erfurt from 2013.
WARTBURG CASTLE THE BATTLE LINES
In 1998, the parish of Marksuhl in Thuringen earmarked an area 7.5 kilometres from the medieval Wartburg castle as suitable for wind development. The following year, the castle was given World Heritage status, due to its history as the refuge of Martin Luther while he translated the Bible's New Testament into German.
Nonetheless, in 2005, wind developer Gewi Planung und Vertrieb was granted a permit by the Wartburg district government for two wind turbines at the earmarked site. After an appeal by Marksuhl parish, this was retracted in 2006.
The developer then appealed and the Meiningen Administrative Court decided in its favour this July, judging that the wind farm would not cause either visual damage nor impair the ancient monument protection, nor would there be an increased risk of death to bats or red kite.
However, the development is widely perceived as endangering the castle's status as a World Heritage site, and the state planning authority therefore intends to contest the Meiningen court judgement.
Hoping to avoid a legal battle, the state building ministry has offered to find the developer an alternative site for the project. "Talks took place on September 3, but we agreed to keep the discussions confidential," Gewi manager Levke Hansen says. "But the aim is for an out-of-court solution."