Germany

Germany

PIONEERING SPIRIT UNDER STRAIN

A wind congress in Rostock in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern revealed disappointment at the slow pace of wind development in the coastal area where site conditions are good. The authorities have been holding back wind information from potential wind farm developers. In some areas all efforts made by turbine manufacturers to cut prices are eliminated by the increased cost of grid connection. A pragmatic solution has to be found for paying for grid connection. It seems unjust that grid modernisation is being paid for by the wind operator while the benefits are enjoyed by the whole society. Landscape guidance and financing advice regarding implementation of projects were also discussed at the conference.

Over 100 wind turbines are now turning in the east German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern with a rated capacity of some 27 MW. However, many in the wind industry had expected that after unification of the two halves of Germany, wind development in the coastal Länder would have proceeded at a far more spectacular rate.

Disappointment with the slow pace was registered by many of the participants at a wind congress held August 25-27 in Rostock as part of east Germany's annual International Congress for Environmental Technology. The event has aspirations as a north European trade fair with visions of stretching its boundaries to Poland and beyond, according to organiser, Karl-Heinz Krüger. For the host state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, for decades regarded as an industrial backwater in Germany, the aim is a valid and courageous one and the determination is clearly there. The event attracted around 25,000 visitors, with 120 attending the wind congress.

But there was no ignoring the disappointment with progress on the wind front. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has had all the advantages of being a latecomer to the business and should have been able to capitalise on the experience already gained by the west German coastal states. Instead, its licensing of wind turbines is slow and laborious, despite the commissioning of a series of studies of wind potential over the past four years. Would-be wind developers are becoming increasingly frustrated.

The well intentioned state appears to be aiming at ways of creating the perfect wind market -- without ever quite getting there. In the meantime the pioneering wind spirit is beginning to flag.

A bitter bone of contention has been the refusal of the authorities to make their studies of wind potential generally available, even though these were carried out using public money. The authorities argue that the studies were intended as a planning aid for district and local councils and therefore are not fully accessible to the public. Critics say the district and local councils are now deliberately, or because of a genuine work overload, spinning out the task of integrating the new information into their existing regional planning. In the meantime wind developments are pushed into the sidelines.

The first major study was carried out in 1992 by the Institute for Landscape Care and Nature Protection of Greifswald at a cost of DEM 160,000. This was an analysis of wind potential in a five kilometre wide strip of land along the coast of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Later, Wind Consult of Rostock carried out more detailed studies for the regional governments of Ribnitz/Dammgarten and Bad Doberan, each costing DEM 25,000. Most recently, Wind Consult has again completed a study on the potential for wind in the whole of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for DEM 167,000. Not one of these studies is generally available.

Ingedore Rudolph from the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern economy ministry admits that the results of the studies are being treated as "semi-public information" and that this does not go down at all well with east Germans after their decades of experience under an undemocratic centralist system. However, at the Rostock wind congress, she reiterated that Mecklenburg-Vorpommern's policy is first to analyse the regions for wind use, after which the electricity utilities will carry out their grid planning and make sure that sufficient transmission capacity is available at any particular site.

It seems that Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is running scared of an uncontrolled proliferation of wind turbines. Rudolph strongly supported the state's decision to vote against a recent attempt to give single wind turbines privileged status in planning law (Windpower Monthly, August & September 1994). Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has the potential to supply 10% of its primary energy consumption with wind energy, she said, but does not want to fall into the "Schleswig Holstein situation," a catch-phrase now used in Germany to describe undesirable wind development.

In attempts to mollify frustrated wind proponents Ingo Weiss of utility Hevag assured the congress that planning for grid expansion and transformer stations for new wind sites is underway. What has yet to be decided is who will pay the costs. Hevag is also developing a system of wind forecasting, based on the movement of weather fronts, for advance predictions of likely output from wind plant, similar to the Pelwin system developed by Schleswig Holstein utility, Schleswag.

Paying for the grid

The question of who will pay for grid modernisation was taken up by Uwe Carstensen, chairman of the German Wind Energy Association. "In some areas we have a situation where all efforts by turbine manufacturers to cut prices are eliminated by the increased cost of grid connection," he said. In some regions modernisation of 100 kV cables is necessary and the costs for this work are being rolled on to wind plant operators, he claimed. "I consider it unjust that the modernisation costs are being paid for by the wind operator but the benefits are enjoyed by society as a whole," said Carstensen. "A pragmatic solution has to be found."

One answer is being offered by the Lower Saxony Energy Agency, owned 25% by Lower Saxony, 50% by the mixed utility holding company, Veba, and its subsidiary utility Preussenelektra, and 25% by BEB, an oil and gas company. The energy agency is considering founding an infrastructure company to make the initial large investment in grid strengthening which is necessary before wind turbines in the Krummhörn area of Schleswig Holstein can be connected to it. The idea is that wind operators could then choose whether to pay their share of the investment immediately or spread it out over a period of 15 years. The German Wind Energy Association accepts this as a "provisional solution" but ideally would like to see a division of responsibility where wind operators undertake to pay for necessary work at the 20 kV level, while the utilities pay for work at the 100 kV level.

New landscape directive

Dirk Nentwig of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern environment ministry told the wind congress that a new directive is being drawn up to provide guidance on minimising impairment of the landscape when siting wind turbines. Faced with considerable opposition from the wind lobby, Nentwig said provocatively, "You have not yet managed to change energy policy, you are simply fulfilling an alibi function." Expanding on this statement he told wind congress delegates that he did not agree with measures to remove the obligation on wind developers to provide some kind of landscape compensation, such as tree planting. "In fact the conventional energies should be charged an extra levy to pay for the environmental damage they cause," he said.

The wind congress also provided a platform for Roland Machse to explain the functions of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Guarantee Credit Bank in overcoming financial difficulties with getting a wind project off the ground. And Joachim Behnke of the German wind association strongly argued the case for involving local people in any new project to ensure local support and acceptance for wind energy.

Trade delegations from the US, China, Poland, Latvia and Austria have already said they will attend next year's Rostock congress, says Krüger. This will include a large wind and solar show to mark the 777th birthday of the city as well as the thousand year anniversary of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. If the trade fair is to grow, though, a more suitable building than the city hall will have to be found. As many as 24 different wind turbine manufacturers and other wind related companies were crammed into the small exhibition area at the Rostock event along with many other exhibitors. Krüger expects the 1995 wind congress to be even more popular. "With the reform of district boundaries and the clearing up of wind turbine ownership problems in general, demand for wind turbines in 1995 will increase significantly," he says.

The winners of a series of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern environment awards for 1994 were also announced at the event. Wind companies, though, had not entered any project for the competition and missed out on this chance for publicity.

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