Strong support for more wind -- The battle of Thuringia

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Local parish councils in the east German state of Thuringia have joined a coalition of heavyweight players in the German wind industry to fight for wind energy in their area. The coalition, New Energy for Thuringia, is campaigning against the removal of seven areas previously earmarked for wind power projects in the spatial development plan for central Thuringia, one of four regions in the state.

Led by WKN Windkraft Nord, the coalition is made up of six further wind project developers: Enerplan Projektentwicklung, French Enxco, Eolical Wind Consult, Gewi Planung und Vertrieb, Iberdrola Renovables Deutschland and WPD Think Energy.

The original draft development plan proposed by the central Thuringia regional planning committee earmarked around 17 areas for wind energy. But a second draft published in November contained just ten areas for wind power development.

The seven areas removed from the plan have been thoroughly investigated and declared suitable for wind projects, taking into consideration impacts on the environment, landscape and potential effects on the local population, says the coalition. Moreover, support from parish councils for wind development in the seven areas is strong.

In removing the areas from the plan, the local economy stands to lose around EUR 150 million in investment that would have come from the development of about 70 MW of wind capacity, says New Energy for Thuringia. The parishes would also miss out on regular income generated by a local tax on wind project profits. The coalition adds that if the seven areas were reinstated and the 70 MW went ahead, around 175 GWh of clean electricity would be generated each year, avoiding the emission of around 112,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

Clemens Ortmann, head of state planning at the Thüringen Landesverwaltungsamt (TL), says nothing is final yet: "The procedure for drawing up the regional development plan is far from complete." Some or all of the priority areas for wind may be restored, although more areas could be struck off, or new ones added, he says. "It is certainly not the case that everything in the second draft will stay the same."

The final spatial development plans of all four regions in Thuringia, which must include areas earmarked for wind development, have to be presented to the state government by the end of the year. While the state currently has 550 operating wind turbines totalling 700 MW, just eight units totalling 15.6 MW were added in 2008. Last year, responsibility for permitting wind turbines was moved from the TL to 17 district administrations.

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