Germany will try to save much of the 16GW of onshore wind power capacity that will lose support by 2025 after 20 years of feed-in tariffs (FITs) end starting next year, mostly through repowering and power purchase agreements (PPAs) for old wind turbines.

Economics and energy minister Peter Altmaier, who had invited the wind sector and some state ministers for a round table in Berlin, said there was a consensus that the potential should continue to be used and expanded.

Germany had enacted its Renewable Energies Act (EEG) in 2000, granting subsidies for 20 years in the form of FITs that were at first fixed by the government and later determined in auctions.

“We will review repowering to see what legal simplifications are possible in order to make it faster and easier for wind turbine owners … to replace old turbines that have lost support with new ones,” Altmaier promised, adding that the government will come up with a solution before Christmas.

Currently, wind farm owners often can’t repower old turbines as new machines are higher and have wider rotor blades, which often would not obtain permits at the same site due to height restrictions or distance rules.

At wind farms that would still not be allowed for repowering, other market-oriented models should be found, such as PPAs or direct marketing on wholesale markets, Altmaier said.

Wind sector split

The wind sector mostly welcomed the minister’s plans, but was not united on all aspects of the solutions.

“Time is running out. In view of the increasing demand for renewable electricity, a lack of space available and the sluggish approval situation, faltering expansion and the withdrawal of up to 16GW of output, which will not be eligible for EEG funding by 2025, there is a risk of a net reduction in output,” warned Hermann Albers, the president of the wind energy federation BWE.

“This must be prevented. That is why we now need solutions to move repowering significantly forward and to keep existing plants in the system temporarily.”

The BWE also demanded to grant turbines falling out of the regular support scheme after 20 years an extension of two to three years in FIT payments in order to compensate for shortfalls due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

VDMA Power Systems, a group representing manufactures, however rejected an extension to support for old turbines.

“In principle, we have to use all available potential efficiently in order to achieve the climate protection goals,” VDMA Power Systems managing director Matthias Zelinger said.

“If machines receive additional subsidies after the end of the 20-year support period, this would take away the incentive to replace them with modern, more efficient and more profitable turbines.”

Instead, the industry should increasingly use the growing PPA market for old wind farms that cannot be repowered. Where that is not economically viable due to lower power prices, the government should help with support in the wake of its coronavirus aid packages instead of creating new support instruments in the power market, he added.