Easier approval procedures should help the expansion of wind energy – as well as more incentives for investors. However, it does not always have to be completely new buildings.

For the accelerated expansion of wind power in Germany, there is basically enough space for new plants and opportunities to replace older ones. A study commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Protection and TÜV Nord came to these assessments.

However, politicians must continue to ensure that the desired higher speed in the expansion of wind power output on land is only possible with compromises in the landscape and nature conservation.

Replace older wind turbines

In the opinion of Tüv Nord, the replacement and retrofitting of older wind turbines should not be neglected. The so-called repowering offers great additional potential to implement the energy transition more quickly, said CEO Dirk Stenkamp on Wednesday. One should not “lose sight of it, because it can play an important role apart from the construction of new plants”. The company, headquartered in Hanover, is one of the three large TÜV groups. It also appraises wind turbines and advises on energy projects.

The green share of wind, solar, biomass and hydropower in electricity production in Germany is set to increase significantly in the coming years. According to plans by Federal Economics and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), 80 percent of all electricity should come from renewable sources by 2030, and by 2035 it should be almost 100 percent. In 2021, according to industry information, it was around 42 percent.

Ambitious expansion goals

“From today’s perspective, the expansion goals of the traffic light coalition are very ambitious and challenging,” said Tüv Nord. It was sluggish for a long time. In the meantime, older wind turbines threatened to be completely excluded from the subsidy. This compensated for the difference between expenses and income – i.e. the fixed feed-in tariffs for the green electricity producers and the proceeds achieved on the electricity exchange.

The EEG surcharge, which co-financed the expansion through consumer participation, will be discontinued in its previous form on July 1st. This should relieve households and industry, but at the same time requires a changed structure of green electricity subsidies. Loss of income is to be settled in the future from an energy and climate fund. At the beginning of the year, grants from the federal budget were used to reduce the levy. Tendering rules are changing.

Create incentives for repowering

The Tüv-Nord boss demanded that other incentives also be created for repowering. In addition, here – as in the construction of new plants – approval procedures should be “massively shortened”. Additional wind farms are often opposed by residents or conservationists.

In terms of repowering, Schleswig-Holstein led the list of federal states in 2021. Brandenburg was second, Lower Saxony third. According to the State Association for Renewable Energies, just twelve turbines have been repowered in the north-west – the most important German wind power region overall. Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) said his country wanted to establish itself as the “number one energy country”. “That’s the goal – there’s a lot of work ahead of it.” Above all, one must “hand over the entire procedural law to a general revision” so that planning for systems becomes less complicated.

Two percent of the area of ​​Germany

The federal government wants two percent of Germany’s area to be designated for the construction of wind turbines. Most federal states are far from achieving this value today – according to a study for Habeck’s department, it would still be achievable in general. Prerequisite: Politicians must be willing to accept the associated “conflict risks”. What is meant are disputes, for example, between the expansion of wind power and the protection of nature and species.

Setting very high settlement distances to wind turbines and excluding forest areas, landscape protection areas or areas of particular importance for the landscape would greatly reduce the area potential and make it impossible to achieve the goal – or at least make it very unlikely.

These federal states have the greatest potential

According to the study, the greatest potential for the expansion of wind energy does not necessarily lie in regions where this has primarily taken place up to now. Although Brandenburg and Lower Saxony have very high area potential, in absolute terms the highest is in Bavaria and other high ones in Baden-Württemberg, Thuringia and Hesse.

Ten scenarios were calculated – depending on how strict the distances between wind turbines and residential buildings are, for example, and how high the average wind speeds are. In the southern countries, a large proportion of the areas have fewer, but probably often still sufficiently good wind conditions for the operation of the turbines.