'Disastrous development' for German onshore in 2019

Germany's onshore wind installations in 2019 have dropped back to the pre-2000 level when the industry was in its infancy. Denmark didn't fare much better.

Out in the cold: Onshore wind in Germany is grinding to a halt with an apathetic government
Out in the cold: Onshore wind in Germany is grinding to a halt with an apathetic government

At 1,090MW, 1999 was a more active year compared with the 325 turbines totalling just 1,078MW that were commissioned in 2019, according to Deutsche WindGuard data.

Only 2008 was a worse year with just 760MW commissioned, but this hides the 1,665MW of actual installations, more than half of which were brought into operation the following year to benefit from higher wind support payments, according to wind agency FA Wind.

Taking into account 82 decommissioned turbines totalling 97MW, Germany's wind capacity grew by 243 turbines for 981MW.

The German onshore fleet numbered 29,456 turbines with a total of 53,912MW as of the end of 2019.

Germany's opposition Green Party places responsibility for the "disastrous development" in 2019 with the federal government and federal economy minister Peter Altmaier.

Instead of tackling the permitting problems, the government is engaged in a "superfluous debate" on a one-size-fits-all minimum distance to dwellings rule supposed to tackle claimed low public acceptance for onshore wind.

Yet public surveys show "there is no acceptance problem in the broad population," economic institute IW (Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft) concluded.

"A planned distance to dwellings rule [of 1,000 metres] is therefore hardly the right approach to tackling the real problems of permitting," but would roughly halve Germany's remaining onshore wind potential and heavily restrict repowering, IW added.

Results of a YouGov survey revealed that only 20% of Germans quizzed with wind turbines within a radius of 5km of their homes were troubled by them, and 79% were untroubled.

Installations in 2020 could clock 1.4-1.8GW, but achieving a lasting upward trend depends on the government swiftly removing obstacles to permitting, said German wind association Bundesverband WindEnergie (BWE).

Roughly 4GW of capacity is exiting the 20-year support period in 2020, only part of which can be repowered or is capable of continued economic operation. Therefore, unless action is undertaken by the government to revitalise the sector, the onshore fleet may start to shrink.


Germany is not the only market to have suffered a heavy drop-off in new wind capacity in 2019. The Danish Energy Agency has released its figures for last year showing that just five turbines for 17MW were added.

The 17MW of new capacity was partially offset by 6.2MW of retired capacity meaning Denmark's onshore wind fleet grew by 10.8MW in 2019, down from 275MW in 2018. 

"It was is an atypical year as it was the first full year since the fixed subsidy for onshore wind turbines ceased in February 2018," said Martin Risum Bøndergaard, head of policy at trade association Wind Denmark.

"However, there is at the same time conspicuously positive news in that all five new wind turbines have been installed without subsidy," Bøndergaard added.

Wind Denmark expects 2020 to be a more fruitful year following the procurement of new capacity in tenders in 2018 and 2019.

"Seven onshore wind projects have won in the technology-neutral tenders in 2018 and 2019, and I expect many of those projects to be fully or partially connected this year, which is why we will come up with a more normal amount of wind this year," Bøndergaard said.

Wind Denmark predicts around 235MW of new capacity will be added on average each year in the 2020s.

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