Repowering boosts new German wind

Repowering accounted for a quarter of Germany’s 3GW of gross new onshore wind power capacity last year, bringing the accumulated onshore total in Europe’s largest market for renewables to 33.73GW, consolidated data from the German wind federation BWE shows.

The BWE and engineering group VDMA Power Systems are now urging Germany’s government to take into account the growing importance of repowering in its plans to put a 2.5GW annual cap on new onshore wind installations, as part of a reform to legislation on renewables.

Repowering amounted to 766MW, or 25.6% of all new onshore installations in 2013. At the same time a capacity of 258MW was retired last year, reducing the net addition of onshore wind in 2013 to 2.74GW.

Repowering numbers are higher than those of shuttered wind installations, as old turbines with a lower capacity are being replaced with machines with a far higher rating.

The BWE expects new installations in 2014 to range between 2.5GW and 3GW, but stresses the build-up depends to a great degree on Berlin’s reform plans.

It is so far unclear whether the envisaged 2.5GW cap will be valid for net or for gross annual additions of onshore wind. Given the growing importance of repowering the question is crucial for companies to assess the size of the German market.

“We’re hearing that most in coalition negotiations were assuming that they’re talking about the net expansion,” says BWE president Sylvia Pilarsky-Grosch.

“They are apparently still discussing this in the (energy) ministry. But it couldn’t be any other way,” she said, adding that the BWE rejects any kind of cap on the expansion of onshore wind.

Robert Habeck, the Green Party energy minister of Schleswig-Holstein state, yesterday reportedly said that German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel during energy talks with German states was willing to take repowering out of the annual cap.

Officials from Germany’s and Schleswig-Holstein’s energy ministries couldn’t immediately confirm the information to Recharge.

The BWE’s Pilarsky-Grosch also warned that there was a great insecurity in the sector, as a planned 10% to 20% cut to onshore wind feed-in tariffs from 2014 on didn’t leave developers enough time to adjust to the new support conditions due to lengthy planning periods for wind parks.

Many companies in the past days have signalled they may be unable to follow through with construction plans if the government were to insist on its tight schedule for a cut in support, she added.

In particular for more moderate-wind inland locations, the government’s plans for a cut in support could be life-threatening, the BWE stresses.

New wind additions last year shifted increasingly to non-coastal areas in central and southern Germany that accounted for almost 60% of new installations, with wind laggards in the South now already adding 24.4% of new generation capacity.

The southern state of Rhineland-Palatine with 413MW of new installations accounted for 13.8% of additions, coming in second only after coastal Schleswig-Holstein with 14.3% of additions. Southern German Bavaria with 252MW represented 8.4% of Germany’s new onshore wind installations last year.

As an increasing number of turbines was installed in moderate-wind inland locations, while the average height of towers also increased, to 117 metres last year.