Court ruling may set bad precedent - Baden-Württemberg blues

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Wind development in the German state of Baden-Württemberg has suffered a major setback with a ruling by the Mannheim administrative court against a four turbine project at Lützelalb in the parish of Lauterstein by developer EnerSys Regenerative Energien.

"This is a clear signal against use of wind power in Baden-Württemberg," says Michael Böhm of Enersys in Wiesbaden. By the end of March, the inland state had 65 turbines turning with a capacity of 32.6 MW.

The project, four years underway, has seen its share of setbacks. In September, the Stuttgart administrative court reversed a negative decision by the Stuttgart district authority against a construction licence, though the court allowed the authority to appeal the ruling due to the "basic significance of wind energy." The authority appealed and the Mannheim court overturned the favourable Stuttgart court ruling -- and disallowed a further appeal by EnerSys, part of the Ventus Group.

"We were brusquely trampled over," complains Enersys lawyer Markus Riehs. "The proceedings were over within 30 minutes, including a visit to an irrelevant hiking path. The court took its decision without even viewing the project site." Hartmut Brösamle of EnerSys, who believes the final judgement was politically influenced. "It's a scandal how the district government of Stuttgart has obstructed the wind industry for years now," he says.

He fears wind energy will now effectively lose its privileged status under building law. This status was introduced in 1997, adding wind turbines to the category of structures like farm buildings, radio masts and nuclear power stations, which are allowed to be installed in green belt areas where housing is not allowed. "This will have a terrible effect on the whole wind branch," he says.

Valuable landscape

Horst Rapp of the Stuttgart authority stresses his office is "expressly" in favour of renewable energies, including wind power. "But, despite the privileged status of wind turbines, we are also legally obliged to draw other relevant aspects into the decision making process, and that includes protection of valuable, exposed areas of the landscape," he says. The proposed EnerSys site is highly visible he says. "Apart from a television mast, which is not comparable with an 85 metre high wind turbine, the area is unspoiled," claims Rapp.

EnerSys believes that despite support from the local population and the parish council, the personal views of individual decision makers have blocked the project. Rapp, responsible for the authorisation of the project, accused Brösamle of wanting to build wind turbines to harvest unjustified subsidies, EnerSys reports. EnerSys also claims that facts were twisted. Lützelalb was initially described by the Stuttgart authority as "a bare unattractive area," and "not a particular target for hikers," but the wind project was later portrayed as "an unacceptable intervention in the attractive landscape of the Lützelalb." The authority suggested a non-feasible alternative site in a nearby valley shaded by a forest above, EnerSys says. To take the case further, it must go to Germany's federal administrative court.

For his part, Rapp urges the 343 parishes in the Stuttgart area -- covering the regions of Stuttgart, Thübingen, Karlsruhe and Freiburg -- to speed up the labelling of land zones for wind energy development.

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