German wind fears state space rules

The government’s latest proposition is not good news for the German wind industry

A wind farm in Germany

Germany's Bundestag on Friday along with a reform of its renewables law also approved legislation that leaves regulation on minimum spacing requirements for onshore wind farms to the states, opening the door for laws that could severely slow wind's expansion in the country's interior regions. 

The government has argued that the new law is necessary, because the increasing height of wind turbines means their acceptance by the population often depends on the distance of plants from housing.

The legislation came amid heavy lobbying by Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer, who says he fears the unique Bavarian landscape could be spoiled if too many wind parks were built close to population centres.

The state of Bavaria – despite having ambitious wind expansion targets – wants to establish a distance of ten times the turbines height, which in the densely-populated state could actually choke off most further wind developments.

Due to moderate winds closer to ground level, turbines in Bavaria and other German inland regions need to be higher than in coastal regions in order to harvest higher wind speeds that are found higher up.

With turbine heights of about 200 metres common for such regions, this would then mean a minimum distance of 2km of wind parks to the closest settlement.

The state of Saxony also plans a strict minimum distance rule.

Germany's Energiewende - the turnaround from nuclear to renewable energy – could be massively slowed down through the new spacing rules, the German Federation for Wind Energy BWE fears.

Germany's less influential upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, still needs to vote on the legislation. The Bundesrat has spoken out against the law before, but can only slow down its passage, not block it.

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