Domestic German Wind Power Dithers

Germany’s domestic solar photovoltaic market may be booming thanks to generous feed-in rebates but the country’s domestic wind power industry is lagging behind previous years, according to sources in Germany. Various legislative uncertainties and increasing restrictions have stifled the domestic market, leaving exports as the only bright spot for German firms.

Between January and September 2004, 653 wind energy turbines with a total capacity of 1,090 MW were newly installed in Germany. During the same period last year, 906 turbines (1,414 MW) went on line. That’s a year-on drop of 23 percent in installed capacity. The quarterly figures for 2004, commissioned by the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) and the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) from the German Wind Energy Institute (DEWI), demonstrate a continued decrease in the domestic wind energy market. The first half of 2004 was overshadowed by debate on the amendment of the Renewable Energy Sources Act, causing widespread uncertainty within the wind power industry. Market growth in the second half of the year is being held back by changes in the approval procedures for wind farms. “There is no shortage of suitable sites for wind turbines,” said Andreas Eichler, spokesman for wind power converter manufacturers in the BWE. “But the growing amount of licensing obstacles are pushing an increasing number of projects to the brink of economic doom due to absurd requirements.” Eichler cited arbitrary restrictions on height that prevent the installation of larger, modern, efficient turbines. In light of this and based on the course of development in recent years, altogether about 2,000 MW are projected to be newly installed in Germany by the end of 2004. At the end of September, Germany counted 16,017 wind energy turbines installed (15,688 MW), some 7.4 percent more than at the end of 2003. In an average wind year, they can produce 31.6 billion kWh of electricity or 6.2 percent of net electricity consumption. In bare figures, wind power already meets more than 30 percent of the electricity demand in the German states Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In terms of new installations, Lower Saxony is leading with 308.6 MW so far this year, followed by Brandenburg (165.75 MW) and North Rhine-Westphalia (140.8 MW). “The national onshore market is declining as expected,” said Norbert Giese, chairman of the wind energy sector of the VDMA. “But the waning domestic market is mostly compensated by increasing export sales. This can be seen in a more detailed examination by DEWI based on a survey of manufacturers.” The export quota of some 30 percent is based solely on the number of wind energy plants exported. Individual components made by German suppliers for foreign wind turbine makers weren’t taken into account. “That brings the German wind power industry’s export quota to 58 percent, which is by all means comparable to the national average of German industry as a whole,” Giese said. Germany is certainly not the only country whose wind power industry was plagued by legislative uncertainties in 2004. The U.S. market for wind power had a likewise lackluster year in 2004 due to uncertainty over the expiration and renewal of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC). While the PTC has since been reactivated beginning in 2005, its expiration during 2004 brought U.S. domestic installations of wind farms to a near halt.
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