Wind power plays a key role in more climate protection. The federal government now wants to tighten the thumbscrews. This is aimed primarily at federal states that have hitherto slowed down expansion.

For a significantly faster expansion of wind turbines in Germany, the federal government wants to make legal requirements for the federal states and thus increase the pressure. Strict distance rules to residential buildings should be overturned – if countries do not achieve new area targets.

The Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection presented plans on Wednesday. With a significantly faster expansion of wind power, climate goals should be achieved. On the other hand, this should help to become less dependent on fossil energies such as Russian gas.

In Swaimah, Jordan, Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) described the planned area targets for wind turbines and other changes as “milestones” for a faster expansion of renewable energies: “We’ve done it bad enough in the past.” Habeck had visited several countries and, for example in Bavaria, insisted on a faster expansion of wind power – now federal laws are to be changed.

Obligatory area targets

According to the draft law, a major obstacle to the expansion of onshore wind energy is the lack of available space. That is why the federal government wants to set legally binding area targets for onshore wind power: 1.4 percent of the federal area should be available for wind turbines by 2026 and two percent by 2032.

Different targets should apply to the individual countries because there are different requirements for wind energy. Area targets of 1.1 percent in 2026 and 1.8 percent in 2032 are planned for Bavaria, the largest state in terms of area – for Lower Saxony 1.7 percent and 2.2 percent. Lower Saxony is the number one wind power region.

In most countries, the planned area targets have so far been missed by far. According to the federal government, 0.8 percent of the state area is currently designated for onshore wind energy, but only 0.5 percent is actually available. The German Wind Energy Association had repeatedly spoken of a north-south divide in expansion: many more new wind turbines are being built in the north than in the south. Overall, however, the expansion has stalled in recent years, which is also due to the long planning and approval processes – the federal government also wants to solve the problem.

distance regulations

From the point of view of the industry and the climate protection and building ministries, strict regulations in countries regarding a minimum distance between wind turbines and residential areas act as a brake on expansion. Proponents, on the other hand, see it as a contribution to greater acceptance.

Habeck said “avoidance planning” was unacceptable. Specifically, a state opening clause in the building code is now to be reformed. So far, this has allowed the federal states to set minimum distances from residential buildings of up to 1000 meters – the so-called privileging of wind turbines can be revoked for this area. NRW used the clause. In Saxony and Brandenburg, a 1000-meter rule has been decided, in Thuringia it is planned. In Bavaria there is an even stricter rule, but the state government there wants to soften it.

According to the draft law, the minimum distance regulations should still be possible in the future. However, they should be linked to whether obligations under a planned “Wind Area Requirements Act” (WindBG) are met – i.e. whether the area targets are achieved in particular.

Countries that have so far lagged behind in the expansion of wind power must consider how they want to achieve the goals: whether wind turbines are built in commercial forests or rural areas – or closer to residential areas.

The federal government also wants to oblige the states to regulate that the minimum distances do not apply to areas that are planned for wind turbines. This is to prevent the following: Suitable areas have already been designated – but regulations on minimum distances prevent the construction of new wind turbines. Existing distance rules in the federal states should be adjusted accordingly by summer 2023.

The following mechanism is also planned: If a country does not adapt the minimum distance rule and does not achieve area targets, the distance regulations should become inapplicable – and automatically expire. This should also happen if a country has not done enough to achieve the area targets by 2024.

Even if distance rules should no longer be allowed to extend to “wind energy areas”, i.e. suitable priority areas – this does not mean that wind turbines are moving very close to residential areas. Because there are other legal requirements, for example in the Federal Immission Control Act, as Jürgen Quentin from the Onshore Wind Energy Agency explained. There are no fixed distance requirements. In the approval process, however, the noise propagation is evaluated, and the type of residential development is also taken into account. According to Quentin, this results in requirements that mean that the systems have to keep a certain distance. Judgments have been made over the years that wind turbines should not be closer than twice the system height to the residential area. With today’s system dimensions, this regularly means a distance of 500 meters to residential buildings.

transfer of land

Countries that exceed their targets should be able to transfer their wind areas to other countries – for example the windy Schleswig-Holstein to Bavaria. To this end, a state treaty is to be concluded by the summer of 2024. The question is what kind of compensation there is for countries that expand a lot. For the non-city states, the transfer is limited to 25 percent of the respective area value.