First dent in the growth curve

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For the first time since 1990 the rate of growth of German wind power has slowed. As widely predicted, the 426 MW installed during last year is considerably down on the 1995 record of 505 MW. The cold weather at the beginning of 1996, uncertainties over the future of the Electricity Feed Law -- which obliges utilities to buy wind power at a premium price -- and planning permit delays all took their toll. The rate of growth in installed wind capacity dropped 15.1% in a year.

The drop in numbers of turbines installed was even more dramatic at 804 in 1996 compared with 1070 in 1995 and 834 in 1994. But this is as much reflective of the rapid increase in the average size of wind turbines as a flagging market. Although the number of turbines installed in 1996 was well below that of 1994, the capacity installed last year was 115 MW more. The average size of turbine installed in 1996 was 530 kW compared with just 370 kW in 1994 and only 250 kW in 1993. The most popular size of turbine now has twice the rated output of the size used most commonly three years ago.

In total Germany now has 1545 MW of rated wind power capacity in operation, according to figures released last month by the German wind energy institute, DEWI. Germany is now running neck and neck with world wind leader the USA which has around 1600 MW in operation, down on previous years as a number of projects are going off line as power purchase contracts expire.

The two länder in north west Germany, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, still lead the field in wind installations although development slowed in both regions last year. Considering its long coast line, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is making only modest progress. Of the inland länder, the densely populated and highly industrialised North Rhine Westfalia is at the front of the pack, followed by east German Brandenburg.

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