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‘Collapse’ in new German onshore wind threatens renewables targets

The growth of onshore wind energy is collapsing in Germany, according to trade association WindEurope, jeopardising both German and EU renewables targets in the process.

Just 134 MW of new onshore wind was installed in Germany in the first quarter of this year – making it the country’s worst quarter for new onshore wind in 19 years. Germany is likely to install 1–2 GW of onshore wind in 2019, marking a significant reduction from the past five years, during which it installed an average of 4.3 GW annually.

According to WindEurope, these figures are well below what the country needs to meet its 65% renewable electricity target by 2030 and to deliver its share of the EU’s 32% renewable energy target. Offshore wind will not fill the gap, the association said: Germany is due to build just 730 MW per year up to 2030. This is in contrast with Spain, for example, which will build 4 GW of new wind capacity in 2019.

The slowdown can be attributed, in part, to failed auction systems in 2017. However, the permitting process for new wind farms remains the most significant underlying problem. The process used to take 10 months, but WindEurope found that it’s now taking more than two years. 

Public authorities are not applying deadlines and many wind farm projects are trapped in legal disputes. In addition, there is a lack of staff to process the applications. ‘The German government now needs to make clear how they’re going to reach its 65% renewables target for 2030,’ said WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson. ‘It needs an annual build-out of 5 GW of onshore wind – and urgent action to speed up the permitting process.’

The onshore wind slowdown also appears to be impacting Germany’s energy workforce. Half of the EU’s 300,000 wind energy jobs are in Germany, but 10,000 have been lost in the last five years. WindEurope predicts that the situation could get worse, as there wasn’t a single turbine order recorded in the country in Q1 2019.

‘There’s plenty of space available for new wind farms in Germany,’ Dickson said. ‘And they can build them in industrial sites like the Dutch do, or alongside motorways like in France and Belgium. Repowering the early wind farms that are coming to the end of their life will also help.’

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