Wind energy's popularity in northern Germany has suffered because of a couple of poorly conducted projects in the area. New planning guidelines are under preparation where regional governments have marked areas for wind development on the basis of decisions made in the local parishes. The point of concern in Lower Saxony is the lack of grid capacity, but a suggestion to the Upper House to require utilities to pay for grid strengthening has not yet been debated.

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Wind energy's honeymoon in northern Germany is over. The glow surrounding the rediscovery of the wind as an abundant and clean source of energy in Schleswig Holstein and Lower Saxony is fading. Wind's image in these states has been tarnished by a few badly executed projects which have whipped up public opposition. Observers are now questioning whether wind development in northern Germany -- aiming at well over 2000 MW of capacity -- can continue at its current rate.

Their doubts are probably unfounded. The initial love affair between the majority of the public and wind energy might have waned, but a steadier, quieter relationship has emerged instead. Projects are being planned more carefully and systematically, with greater attention paid to the wishes of local citizens, and not just those of the originally stormier wind partner.

Despite this new stage in the relationship, or perhaps because of it, Schleswig Holstein energy minister, Claus Möller, believes the political aim of 1200 MW of wind by 2010 will still be met. Speaking at a February seminar, "The Future of Wind Energy Use to the year 2005," organised by the Berlin branch of the German wind plant operators association, DGW, Möller said: "In 1990 the electricity utilities laughed at out plan to meet 20-25% of Schleswig Holstein's electricity demand with wind energy by the year 2010. Now they are afraid we will achieve our aim even earlier." The seminar was part of the major Berlin environment trade fair, Utech.

Möller's rhetoric is based in fact. Wind is supplying more and more of the power used in the province, from 0.04% in 1988, to 4% in 1994 and probably 6% in 1995. "If we add together the turbines already connected to the grid and the turbines for which licence applications have been made, then we would have 1800 MW feeding into the grid. That is already more than our political aim for 2010," he added.

Möller recognises that major regional utility Schleswag could be hit hard by the burden of paying the premium price for wind power dictated by the Electricity Feed Law (EFL). He points out that the EFL includes a hardship clause and this ought to be used to support Schleswig. Möller recommends that when the cost of buying wind energy exceeds 5% of a utility's total electricity purchase costs, then the additional burden should be passed back to the utility's major supplier. In Schleswag's case, this would be Preussenelektra. The idea was met with stony silence from utility participants at the seminar.

xxxxNew planning guidelines

At the end of 1994, 934 turbines (280 MW) were in operation in Schleswig Holstein. To ensure sensible siting of more projects, the regional governments, planning authorities, and the environment ministry recently drew up new draft guidelines for wind development. The intention is for regional governments to prepare new maps earmarking areas for wind development on the basis of decisions made in the local parishes. In this way, local government, representing the people most affected by the arrival of a wind plant, will have the final say. While this work is underway, wind development is likely to slow, yet be followed by a new surge of activity when the maps are ready.

In some areas, however, necessary expansion of the capacity of the Schleswag grid is going to create a project bottleneck. Even before the installation of a new transformer station at Marne-West has been finished, the 120 MW of new grid capacity made available has been nearly exhausted by projects in the pipeline.

Lower Saxony Environment Minister, Monika Griefahn, also speaking at the seminar, expressed her confidence about achieving Lower Saxony's political aim of 1300 MW of wind power by 2005. At the moment over 800 turbines are installed in Lower Saxony and rated wind capacity has passed the 200 MW milepost.

Griefahn informed the conference that a recently completed study of sites suitable for wind energy use in the ten inland districts, conducted by German wind institute DEWI, revealed a theoretical capacity matching that of the ten coastal districts. Capacity at the coast was also established by DEWI in a survey carried out three years ago which said a theoretical potential existed for 12,000-15,000 MW. In 1994 the district planning programme of these coastal states then earmarked sites for 1300 MW of wind plant. If the DEWI findings for the inland states produce the same planning result, sites for another 1300 MW of wind capacity in non-coastal districts will be found.

Griefahn reiterated the concern expressed by Claus Möller about lack of grid capacity. In Lower Saxony, too, grid connection costs are rising sharply as utilities continue to pass on the costs of strengthening the grid to make room for new capacity to wind operators. A Lower Saxony initiative before the Upper House to require the utilities to pay for grid strengthening has not yet been debated. Meantime, the Lower Saxony Economy Ministry has set up a clearing house to tackle individual grid connection problems.

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