German production record 'masks sector challenges'

Wind power generation reached record levels in Germany in the first half of the year, according to new figures from the country’s transmission system operators (TSOs). However, German wind energy association BWE warned that not enough projects had started construction or been permitted during the period.

The German wind energy association warned that both new permittings and project installations were happening too slowly in the first half of 2020 (pic credit: Siemens)
The German wind energy association warned that both new permittings and project installations were happening too slowly in the first half of 2020 (pic credit: Siemens)

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Onshore and offshore wind farms generated 75.06TWh in the first half of 2020, according to utilities’ data compiled by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE).

This accounted for 30.6% of total output recorded in Germany between 1 January and 30 June 2020, the data from TSOs 50 Hertz, Amprion, Tennet, TransnetBW, Destatis and EEX show.

It also marks a 12% rise in generation year on year, while wind’s share of total output grew 5.7% percentage points.

However, the BWE warned that both project installations and the granting of new permits had been happening too slowly in the first half of 2020. Permitting delays and arguments over setback rules have throttled developers' appetite to bid into auction in recent years.

It added that wind farms totalling just 878MW had been approved in the first five months of the year, while Windpower Intelligence data suggest 956MW of new onshore and offshore projects had been commissioned by the end of June.

Last year, 2,436MW of new wind capacity was commissioned, compared with 2,068MW in 2018 and more than twice that — 5,508MW — in 2017, according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly.

BWE president Herman Albers pointed to lengthy permitting processes and reduced auction participation as factors behind slow installation rates.

He also noted that between 2017 and 2019, the federal energy regulator (BNetzA) had offered 9,185MW of wind power capacity in tenders, but only awarded 7,009MW (76.3%). Further, by May 2020, only 1,700MW of these projects (24.2%) had been commissioned, he added.

Need for action

“We are facing a disaster, not only with permits and extensions, but also with the implementation of the already too-low surcharges from tenders," Albers said.

“Across all political levels, a new awakening is needed to anchor wind energy as the pillar of the energy industry of the future.”

Last month, parliament allowed German states to have the final say on whether or not to impose a controversial 1,000-metre setback rule, and set ambitious new targets for offshore wind (up to 20GW by 2030).

But the BWE argued that further challenges — particularly project extensions and repowering — still need addressing.

Meanwhile, Matthias Zelinger, managing director of engineering trade association VDMA Power Systems, warned that unless it better facilitates wind power expansion, Germany risks not only failing to reach its climate policy goals, but also missing out on economic opportunities from industrial demand.

“As a location for the technology providers of the wind industry, the attractiveness is waning, which in turn endangers jobs and export opportunities,” he added. 

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