A report on the Federal Research Ministry's spending on wind reveals that utility and non commercial projects have eaten up a huge proportion of the budget. The current fiscal year supports 27 projects of which the utility programmes for giant wind turbines get the biggest share. The ministry's aim is that wind should provide a long term contribution to German electricity supply at an acceptable cost. The article lists the 27 selected projects.

Only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of Deutschmark poured into German wind energy research and development (R&D) over the past two decades has gone to companies now playing a significant role on the wind market. Even more startling is the division of the total spending of DEM 328 million between 1974 and 1993. Nearly half this sum flowed to just five large companies which are either no longer active or have been pushed into the sidelines.

These are just two of the revelations in a report by Jens Steinmetz of the Wilhelmshaven technical college who has analysed the Federal Research Ministry's (BMFT) spending on wind. Nearly 80 recipients have benefited from ministry wind grants, but just DEM 9 million, or 2.4% of the total, went to companies with high profiles on the wind market today, revealing that spending on new developments is restricted to just DEM 1-2 million a year. Of the DEM 328 million which went to R&D, around DEM 120 million has been spent on large turbines, some DEM 100 million on smaller turbines and since 1989 a good DEM 70 million has flowed through the 250 MW support programme. Spending on the programme, which provides chosen wind projects with a subsidy of DEM 0.06/kWh for a period of ten years, is expected to eventually reach DEM 350 million. The remaining DEM 38 million went to universities and technical colleges for applied research, to the German meteorological office for its wind assessment services and to Germanischer Lloyd and others for their work on devising guidelines for wind turbine certification.

In the current fiscal year, 1993-94, BMFT has selected 27 projects for support. They will receive a total of around DEM 43.6 million (see table). A large chunk of this, just over DEM 11 million, or some 25%, is eaten up by six projects proposed by utility Preussenelektra -- all related to the 3 MW Aeolus II and the 1.2 MW WKA 60.

Significantly, the support of these Preussenelektra projects is far more generous than that awarded to six proposals for development of large turbines for commercial operation. A 750 kW turbine by Husumer Schiffswerft, a 1 MW machine by Enercon, a 1.2 MW vertical axis machine by Heidelberg Rotor, a 1 MW turbine by new wind company Autoflug and a 1 MW by Tacke Windtechnik, together receive no more than DEM 6.7 million, just 15% of the total. Some of these projects, though, also have access to regional government funding.

The considerable support of Preussenelektra's venture into wind technology contrasts sharply with the utility's otherwise predominantly negative attitude to wind energy, most recently displayed by the utility's Gottfried Schmitz. From Preussenelektra Windkraft, Schmitz is quoted by the Handelsblatt newspaper as saying that he sees no broad market penetration of either wind or solar within the foreseeable future. He claims that a European Union working group has reported there will be no increase in wind power worth talking about in Europe. The frequently repeated fallacy that wind power cannot replace conventional power station capacity is also reiterated in the Handelsblatt interview. It is probably no accident that a major financial newspaper targeted at the business community published the interview just a month before the German general election. It clearly undermines the pro-renewables platform of the Social Democrats, now in opposition, while supporting the efforts of the federation of German industry, BDI, and the utility association, VDEW, to have the Electricity Feed Law rescinded. The law guarantees access to the grid and fair tariffs for renewable power plant.

BMFT, with its considerable support to Preussenelektra, seems convinced that giant wind turbines are a must. Although noting that the 3 MW Aeolus 2 at Wilhelmshaven is too expensive, the ministry's Jürgen Heinemann is, nonetheless, a supporter of the turbine, which he says is running well. The Aeolus has been developed together with Sweden, where a sister machine operates. "Both in Sweden and Germany MBB Hebezeuge is working on how to cut the costs of Aeolus II. The price of the machine is totally unacceptable at the moment at DEM 8000/kW. The price must be reduced to the current average in the wind industry of DEM 2000/kW," says Heinemann. So far the Aeolus II has cost DEM 20 million, of which DEM 8 million has been supplied by the Federal Research Ministry. Justifying this expenditure Heinemann stresses "If we don't come to use larger turbines, then we will not reach the growth in wind that we want."

Talks with turbine manufacturers in the spring, however, led to the introduction of several new and major research areas away from the support of giant windmills. These are divided into four categories, says Heinemann.

¥ Blades: lightning protection, noise, blade root connections, manufacture and materials development

¥ Construction: bearings and components stress

¥ Electrotechnology: permanently energised generators and feedback effects on the grid

¥ System technology: offshore turbines.

On target for the year 2000

A recent BMFT report concludes that wind energy development is on target for 500 MW in 2000 and 1000 MW by 2005. This assumes installation of between 50 MW and 100 MW a year, less than is currently being achieved. Some 400 MW is now installed today. The BMFT report refers to a forecast dating back to 1984 in which wind energy potential in Germany is estimated at 3% of primary energy consumption, of which around 15% would be installed by 2000. This would be the equivalent of 0.7% of total electricity generation. A second forecast, carried out in 1991, after the introduction of the 250 MW programme, predicted a wind potential of between 0.2% and 0.4% of electricity generation achievable between the years 2000 to 2005. This forecast is proving about right, says BMFT.

The ministry's aim is that wind energy should provide a long term contribution to German electricity supply at an acceptable cost and should serve to broaden the basis of the country's energy supply. By the end of the century it expects wind energy to be competitive. Already, according to a BMFT report, in good wind areas typical production costs lie at DEM 0.2/kWh and in weak wind areas DEM 0.3/kWh.

Neither of these forecasts, however, take much account of the environmental benefits of wind and make little attempt to put a value on these. With strong political support for clean energies, the wind sector may well grow faster than a purely economic forecast could anticipate. The speed of development this year suggests this is already happening.

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