Who maintains wind turbines on site

The slowed down wind power expansion

Status: 05.11.2019 10:32 a.m. | archive
by Lea Busch, Jan Körner

The expansion of wind power in Germany has stalled massively. As few wind turbines as this year were last built 20 years ago. At a time long before Fukushima and the decision to move away from coal and nuclear power towards the energy transition. But for this to succeed, the country needs renewable energies. By 2030, the amount of electricity that is generated from wind should double - actually. But in 2019 only 26 additional wind turbines have been connected to the grid in northern Germany. Although 57 new systems were built, 31 old systems were shut down at the same time. The momentum is also decreasing in the performance of the turbines: by the end of September 2019, only wind turbines with a total output of 507 megawatts were connected to the grid nationwide - a value that was reached after just three months in the past five years.

VIDEO: The braked wind power expansion (11 min)

But why is that? According to the Federal Wind Energy Association, the biggest obstacles currently facing the expansion of wind power are so-called radio beacons, radar systems of the German air traffic control. In Germany, these systems need an exceptionally large safety distance. Nationwide, air traffic control is blocking at least 1,100 of the wind turbines that have already been applied for.

Radio beacons prevent wind turbine expansion

Wind farm operator Nils Nieschken was unable to finish building a wind turbine due to the required safety distance from the radio beacon.

Wind farm operator Nils Niescken stands at the foot of a round foundation. There should actually be a wind turbine there. If it weren't for the radio beacon in Sarstedt, Lower Saxony, just under 14.7 kilometers away. The problem: If the distance from a planned wind turbine is less than 15 kilometers, air traffic control has a say in the approval and only allows a limited number of wind turbines within this radius. And Niescken has already started building at his own risk. A difference of 400 meters was his undoing here. He points to a wind turbine behind him, which he was allowed to build: "The system over there is 15.1 kilometers away. And so outside the test radius."

The 15 kilometers are only valid in Germany. The International Aviation Authority ICAO actually recommends ten kilometers worldwide. The navigation of airplanes via radio is out of date. Today it is GPS-supported and does not require a radio beacon. They're just a kind of emergency technology. By 2030, the number of navigation systems is even to be reduced by half.

Germany a special case?

Anja Naumann from Deutsche Flugsicherheit believes the 15 kilometers distance is right.

But Anja Naumann from Deutsche Flugsicherung insists on the importance of radio beacons and the 15 kilometers distance. "We simulate the effects a future wind turbine will have on the accuracy of the signals emitted," she explains. "If it affects safety we have to say stop." Belgium has even opted for even less, seven kilometers, Spain even for only three kilometers. They could do that because they have fewer wind turbines, says Anja Naumann. Germany is a special case due to the massive expansion of wind power. The ICAO also recommends a ten-kilometer distance between the beacon and the wind turbine - worldwide.

"Much resistance on site"

In Schleswig-Holstein, it is primarily the complaints of residents and conservationists that have meanwhile almost paralyzed the expansion. In 2015, the Schleswig Higher Administrative Court overturned the state's entire wind power planning after a lawsuit. The reason: The public has not been sufficiently involved so far. The country then decreed a so-called moratorium, an expansion stop. Every single area for wind power is now being re-examined and thousands of statements from those affected are being processed. New wind turbines are only available with special permits.

Environment Minister Jan Philipp Albrecht does not meet with approval with the expansion of wind power in many places.

"There is a lot of resistance on the ground, and that can only be changed if politicians actually put themselves clearly behind this industry," explains Environment Minister Jan Philipp Albrecht. But politics - isn't that what he is himself? And hasn't the moratorium been going on for a long time? "I believe that we have chosen exactly the right procedure here in Schleswig-Holstein. It takes a little longer, but then actually provides a legally secure framework for the whole country," said the Green politician. And they are working hard to support the wind power industry. But in the end this part of the energy transition will be delayed by at least five years due to the moratorium.

Long wait for approval

Hans-Günther Lüth has been waiting for approval for his wind farm since 2010.

Hans-Günther Lüth is one of those people who feel that. He wants to build a wind farm with eight turbines in Großenaspe. Lüth started planning the project in 2010 and has been waiting for approval ever since. The location is actually ideal, between a motorway and a high-voltage road. Nobody lives here far and wide. But in the current political situation, the authorities apparently lack the courage to approve the wind farm. With tangible consequences, his application for approval is now out of date. "The systems that we applied for at the time would probably hardly be available from the manufacturer today. The technology has of course also developed further. We will have to react to that somehow," says Lüth.

The moratorium is apparently working: According to the Federal Wind Energy Association, a total of two wind turbines were added throughout Schleswig-Holstein in the first half of 2019. Far too little if you really want to achieve the climate targets.

Dossier: Wind Energy in Northern Germany

In the mix of renewable energies, wind energy plays the most important role. Wind energy is particularly important on the coasts in northern Germany. Information in the dossier at NDR.de. more

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Panorama 3 | 05/11/2019 | 9:15 pm