The rise and rise of German wind -- A significant industrial sector

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Wind power is growing faster than gas in Germany. Last year saw 2659 MW of new wind power capacity, but only 700 MW of new gas plant according to the Verband der Elektrizitätswirtschaft, the Germany utility federation. The 2079 wind turbines installed in 2001 brought the total number of operating units to 11,438 with a combined capacity of 8753 MW. This is an increase in capacity of 44% in just one year, reports the Deutsches Windenergie Institut (DEWI).

"For the first time it is possible for wind energy to meet 3% of Germany's electricity consumption, or enough for four million, three-person households," says DEWI's Jens-Peter Molly. German wind plant construction accounted for about 50% of all new wind capacity installed worldwide, a point that the national wind association, Bundesverband Windenergie (BWE), has been quick to point out. In 2001, a four-person household in Germany paid about EUR 0.61 a month to meet the costs of the premium payments for renewable energies (mainly wind), about 1.5% of the total monthly bill. This is expected to rise to EUR 0.77/month or about 1.8% of the monthly bill in 2002, reports utility association Verband der Elektrizitätswirtschaft.

Environment minister Jürgen Trittin is delighted with the progress. "With the current capacity total, wind energy could deliver 16 TWh this year and save ten million tonnes of C02 emissions," he says. Trittin is a main backer of Germany's new law to phase-out nuclear power by closing 19 stations (22,000 MW) over the next two years and replacing them, at least partly, with renewables. He praised the wind industry for "showing how quickly, given the right conditions, renewable energies can contribute to climate protection and the shift away from fossil and nuclear generation."

Significant sector

These days, the wind power industry provides so much economic activity that even Germany's giant engineering federation is enthusiastic about it. "With 35,000 employees and an annual turnover of EUR 3 billion, the German wind industry has become a significant industrial sector," says Thorsten Herdan, boss of the Verband Deutscher Maschinen und Anlagenbau. Turbine manufacturers are also no longer entirely dependent on the domestic market but are shifting their sights abroad. "The number of turbines exported in 2001 was a fifth of the number sold at home, whereby some companies export more than they sell in Germany," says Herdan.

German companies should be exporting as much as 60-70% of their turbine production within the next five years, predicts Fritz Vahrenholt, CEO of turbine manufacturer Repower Systems in Hamburg. "Germany will only repeat its 2001 performance in the next two to three years as there is already a shortage of sites on land," he says. He anticipates, however, a steady growth of the German repowering market, with old turbines replaced by new.

The average size of each turbine installed in Germany continues to grow and in 2001 was 1.23 MW, up from 1.1 MW in 2000, 0.94 MW in 1999 and 0.46 MW in 1995. In a country without strong winds, big rotors and big generators are popular with investors keen to see the high returns resulting from use of the most cost effective technology. This point was sharply brought home in 2001, a year of particularly poor winds. "Almost all sites yielded less than expected," according to Jochen Keiler of the Betreiber-Datenbasis, a number-crunching organisation for turbine performance.

The northern coastal regions were hit hardest with production falling by 30% compared with a statistically normal year of winds, while south and mid Germany saw output fall by up to 15%. Wind direction was also atypical, an important parameter as turbines are sited to take account of prevailing winds.

financial squeeze

BWE warns that some projects will have to re-jig their financing schedules to cope with a year of poorer than expected returns. "This shows how important it is for investors to watch that they only put their money in wind projects with sufficient liquidity reserves to bridge difficult years," warns the BWE's Dirk Jesaitis. A few wind stations will suffer "liquidity bottlenecks which will have to be resolved in negotiation between investors and their financing banks," he adds.

The coastal states of western Germany, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, continue to be the most active wind markets, installing 668 MW and 377.6 MW of new capacity, respectively. In a year of normal winds, wind energy generation now meets 10% and 28% of electricity consumption in these two states. The next most active state is inland North Rhine Westfalia, which became home to 366 MW of new wind plant, with Brandenburg and Saxony Anhalt in east Germany hard on its heels with 327 MW and 303 MW, respectively. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, with its long Baltic Sea coast came sixth in the pecking order of Germany's 16 states with 225 MW.

Leading the pack

In the supplier league table (previous page), Germany's major wind turbine maker, Enercon, once again leads the pack. Its turbines accounted for 28% of installed capacity in Germany last year and 29% of turbines that have gone in the ground since 1982.

Enercon is followed by Vestas Deutschland, which considerably increased its market share along with NEG Micon in third place. Of the group of three after NEG Micon, Enron Wind, Nordex and AN Windenergie (agent for Danish manufacturer AN Bonus), only Nordex improved its market share between 2000 and 2001.

RePower Systems, at seventh position, is the conglomerate formed in spring 2001 from three companies: Jacobs Energie of Husum and Brandenburgische Wind und Umwelttechnologien (BWU) of Trampe, both wind turbine manufacturers, and engineering firm Pro+Pro Energiesysteme in Rendsburg. The three were already linked by a common shareholder, Regenerative Energien Denker & Dr Wulf, based in Sehenstedt, which owned 90% each of Jacobs Energie and BWU and all of Pro+Pro after wind engineering company Aerodyn sold its 50% stake earlier in the year.

DeWind saw its market share of capacity halve in 2001 while Fuhrländer managed a small increase. Frisia's market share slipped as it headed for bankruptcy proceedings at the end of 2001.

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