South Germany's message at renewables congress

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Sluggish wind energy development in southern Germany can be turned around if renewable energies are given priority attention in Germany's liberalised power market -- but some regulation of utilities must be considered. Meantime, the country has a considerable amount of wind projects in the pipeline, including plans for Europe's largest wind power station. These were some of the main messages to emerge from the wind sessions at Erneuerbare Energien '99, the second south German renewable energy conference and trade fair held near Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg in February.

Of the 500 conference delegates -- up from 400 at last year's event -- the sessions on wind energy attracted some 60 people, a respectable number for a renewables congress in a region that has had little wind power development to date. "There is a boom in wind energy in Germany, but Baden-Württemberg is lagging far behind," said Hartmut Brösamle of planning company EnerSys. By the end of 1998, the Land's (state's) total installed wind capacity reached only 22 MW and Bavaria had only 31 MW installed, compared to the hundreds of megawatt in northern Länder (Windpower Monthly, February 1999). This situation can be improved, Brösamle said, if renewables are "given real priority in Germany's newly competitive electricity market" along with a revised planning approval procedure for wind projects.

His comments were accentuated by Peter Weißferdt of the Engineering Office for Electric Energy Systems of Kiel, who feared that grid connection will become the weapon used by utilities to hamper wind's expansion. As long as utilities and net operators alone can decide if and how much renewable energy they can take on to their networks, connection to the grid will be renewables' vulnerable flank. Utility calculations on grid capacity are not verifiable and nobody checks them because the supervisory authorities and the cartel offices are merely "tigers without teeth," he said. He pointed out that in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, some utilities already claim their grids are full. Weißferdt says he now makes sure he always has his binoculars ready to view transformer station nameplates in order to check that capacity in the field corresponds with utilities' claims.

From the manufacturers

German and Danish wind turbine manufacturers were also on hand to present news on product development and projects in the pipeline for Germany. The main project in the country this year for Danish Vestas is to set up Europe's largest wind power station, comprising 38, V66 1.65 MW turbines with a capacity of 63 MW, said Andreas Eichler of Vestas. He declined to specify the location. The company plans to start series production of its 1.65 MW machines in June.

German Enercon announced that by the end of February it had installed 130 of its 1.5 MW E66 machines in Germany, with ten of those on 98 metre towers. This spring, said the company's Egbert Terholsenthe, Enercon plans to install four E66 units in Wickede and one E66 on a garbage dump close to a motorway in Munich, the latter financed by the Munich municipal utility Stadtwerke München. Meanwhile, Tacke Windenergie GmbH, a German subsidiary of American power giant Enron Wind Corp, announced that more than 100 of its 1.5 MW turbines with rotor diameters of 70.5 metres will be installed in 1999. The first ten of these units were installed last month in Schleswig-Holstein -- six in Schafflund and four in Fiefbergen, said Torsten Höhl of Tacke Windenerge. Last year, he said, only 28 of the 1.5 MW machines went in the ground, along with 54, 600 kW units. Smaller German company DeWind intends to install 65, 600 kW turbines in Germany this year, said the company's Sven Kiel. In the last two months, 15 have been installed. DeWind also intends to install eight 1 MW turbines in the first half of the year, and 30 more in the second half.

Of the Danish companies active in Germany, NEG Micon announced it is working on squeezing the machine components of its 1.5 MW turbine into the space of the 1 MW nacelle to make it lighter. "We hope to reduce costs, which is especially important for wind development in inland areas," said Anne Euhus of the company. The prototype will be installed in Denmark this summer. Furthermore, NEG Micon plans to install six, 2 MW turbines with rotor diameters of 72 metres at Danish offshore sites and four 2 MW turbines with rotor diameters of 78 metres at German or Danish inland locations in 1999.

Down to earth

The trade fair was a down-to-earth affair, dominated by solar. Even the more prominent companies of the wind world, like Nordex, Enercon and Tacke, exhibited with small stands -- perhaps avoiding the professional polish seen at international trade fairs that could put off potential small investors, perhaps reflecting their market expectations in southern Germany. Of the 138 exhibitors, 24 were from the wind sector. These included federal wind association Bundesverband Windenergie, German weather service Deutsches Wetterdienst and the Swiss wind organisation Suisse Eole, along with about ten planning and marketing companies and 11 turbine manufacturers.

About 6750 people visited the trade fair, compared to nearly 6000 in 1998, the organisers report. About 65% were private visitors and 35% were professionals.

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