German onshore surges in H1

New German onshore wind installations surged during the first half of 2014 and may reach a record for the full year, as developers race to complete wind farms before a 2.5GW annual cap starts in 2015 and some states impose spacing restrictions.

1.7GW of new onshore capacity was added in the first six months, or 66% more than in the year-earlier period, according to data from the wind energy federation BWE and VDMA Power Systems, the energy arm of engineering federation VDMA.

Of that, 267MW came from repowering projects, while 64MW in wind installations were removed.

That pushed the country's cumulative wind capacity to 35.4GW.

The federations expect total 2014 onshore wind additions of between 3.3GW and 3.7GW, bringing the cumulative capacity to at least 37GW. The highest annual installation figure so far was in 2002, when 3.2GW of onshore wind power was added.

News of Germany's burgeoning wind base came as it emerged that renewables accounted for a record 28.5% share of power consumption in the first half.

There are two overlapping and mutually reinforcing effects that caused the surge in wind installations, said Lars Bondo Krogsgaard, member of the VDMA Power Systems' board and chief customer officer at wind turbine maker Nordex.

"We feel an anticipation effect caused by the insecurity in the wake of the debate about electricity prices and minimum distances (to settlements) ahead of the EEG reform," he said.

"As investors were insecure about what the EEG 2014 would bring, they completed wind energy projects on land at a terrific rate."

The federal government in Berlin this year pushed through a reform of the country's Renewable Energies Act (EEG) that foresees a 2.5GW annual cap for onshore wind (excluding repowering) from 2015 onwards.

At the same time, a new clause allows German states to determine minimum spacing requirements for wind farms themselves.

The inland state of Bavaria – despite having ambitious wind expansion targets – wants to establish a distance of ten times the turbine’s height, which in the densely-populated state could actually choke off most additional wind developments.  The state of Saxony also plans a strict minimum distance rule.

Bavaria, hitherto a wind power laggard, during the first half actually more than doubled its new installations during the first half of 2014, reaching 141MW. That is still a far cry from the 443MW added in the coastal state of Schleswig-Holstein, but the moderate-wind South now is persistently catching up thanks to higher hub heights.

Southern Germany urgently needs to build more wind power as it harbours most atomic power plants Germany decided to switch off by 2022 as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.