Power places - 1. Brandenburg

WORLDWIDE: This was once spy-swapping country. The modern region of Brandenburg surrounds, but does not include, the city-state of Berlin, whose western boundary was a front line during the Cold War. It was here that spies were traded across the Glienicke Bridge, which links Potsdam in Brandenburg with the former West Berlin - and was for decades the interface between two hostile worlds.

As with neighbouring Power Place Saxony-Anhalt, the fall of communism presented Brandenburg with a problem. The social and economic scars left from the attrition between West and East ran deep. As unemployment spiralled across the former Eastern Bloc states, the regions of the newly defunct East Germany sought new industries that could fill the employment vacuum left by the end of the jobs-for-all Warsaw Pact era - and the wind sector was born.

In terms of installed capacity, Brandenburg is currently second only to Lower Saxony among the German states - reaching a total of 4,170MW at the end of 2009. Taking into consideration installed capacity per capita, Brandenburg scoops the highest Power Place factor to earn its top spot.

Although Brandenburg is not a wind energy pioneer, it has benefited from increasing saturation at the windier sites on the German coastline in recent years, which has had the effect of pushing development inland. Recent wind power development in Brandenburg has been fast-paced, driven by economic imperatives and helped by the fact it is sparsely populated.

The main driver for wind power development in Brandenburg, as in other German states, is the German Renewable Energy Act (REA). The act, implemented in its present form in 2001, provides feed-in tariffs for electricity generated from renewable energy sources. Apart from securing revenue for wind projects, the law generally obliges grid operators to connect wind farms to the grid. This, and other features of the REA, have helped to significantly reduce wind project risk.

Given the European Union's targets for the installation of renewable energy, Germany revised its national target and tariffs, aiming to double its share of electricity from renewable sources from current levels to more than 30% by 2020. Most of this is expected to come from wind power.

The march of wind in Germany has been aided by the privileged status of wind farms within the planning system. Wind energy is regarded as being wholly of benefit to the public and local communities are required by law to be included in the decision-making process.

Like all the top Power Places, Brandenburg risks reaching a saturation point. With increasing numbers of erected wind turbines, it will become more difficult to identify suitable sites in the region - which has the potential to slow down wind power development in Brandenburg. However, it is expected that the nationwide feed-in tariff system, which provides an attractive incentive, will drive development in less windy sites, albeit at a somewhat slower pace than Brandenburg has seen in the past.

As with other rural areas with wind power development, grid integration and transmission are expected to become the main obstacles to further expansion in Brandenburg. But despite the challenges ahead, the region is our top Power Place in the world - confirmation of its transition from Cold War frontline to wind power hot spot.

Brandenburg, Germany


FOR

  • Feed-in tariff
  • Ambitious renewables targets
  • Construction permit privileges

AGAINST

  • Grid bottlenecks
  • Site saturation

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