Husum 2019: Germany heading for a "crash landing"

At a trade fair like Husum Wind 2019, every exhibitor has a story to tell. But with the German industry facing a cliff edge, could those stories and their innovations, start looking elsewhere?

If the German wind market falters, so will the trade shows and the technical innovation (pic: Husum Wind / Messe Husum & Congress)
If the German wind market falters, so will the trade shows and the technical innovation (pic: Husum Wind / Messe Husum & Congress)

Sometimes the enthusiasm of one person stands out ahead of competitors – just like Jens Grunwald‘s presentation for North Rhine-Westphalia-based Harting Technology.

Grunwald demonstrated the company’s new fibre-optic rotary transmitter with bi-directional data transfer, which is now in serial production. It provides fast, secure, high-volume data communication between the static part of a turbine – the nacelle – and the rotating part – the hub and blades – the company said.

But if Germany‘s onshore wind sector goes down the drain, so will the country‘s major wind trade fairs in Husum and Hamburg, and with them the demonstrations of innovative products, the know-how and the stories will go elsewhere.

The fact that much emphasis at Husum 2019 was placed on keeping wind turbines running after their 20-year support period – dubbed by cynics as "care for the dying" – instead of replacing them with new and better technology shows the state of affairs in the German onshore wind industry.

Empty promises 

Forging ahead with sector coupling of renewables to heat, chemicals, electric mobility and ambitions of becoming the world number one in hydrogen technologies, as heralded by German economy minister Peter Altmaier in July, are hollow aims if insufficient underlying green energy is available.

While chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at the opening ceremony of the international automobile exhibition in Frankfurt on 12 September and urged for more charging points for electric cars, not a single federal minister made the journey to Husum to learn about where the green power is supposed to be sourced.

Yet the German government must present a plan before the end of the year to the European Commission on its contribution to meeting 2030 climate targets.

The Renewable Energy Act is due for an update this autumn, implementing the recommendations of a  government working group, set up in November 2018, on public acceptance and the energy transition.

The results — due last May — have still not been published.

Crash landing

"A bad crash landing" is awaiting the industry by mid-2020, warned Hans Dieter Kettwig, managing director of Enercon, unless positive signals about the near-term future of onshore wind are coming soon.

With up to seven turbine manufacturers competing in a current German market volume of around 1.5GW, there is not much to go round, he pointed out. 

The government has a 65% renewables target for electricity to 2030, "but there is no honest commitment to the target, nor to taking steps to reaching it", complained Gunnar Liehr, vice president for Germany, Austria and Switzerland at turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy.

According to renewable energy federation Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energien, 4.7GW of onshore wind and 10GW of additional solar are needed annually, along with a minimum of 20GW of offshore wind, by 2030 to reach that target.

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