Germany's wind expansion halved in 2018

New figures show that Germany only installed half of the necessary onshore wind needed to meet its 2030 target, as administrative problems continue to pile up for the sector. The majority of the new turbines seem to have been primarily installed by one manufacturer.

Over the summer, the German wind industry proclaimed that approximately 3.3 GW of German onshore wind would be installed in 2018. Now, a new study from Deutsche Windguard shows that this was far from reality, with turbines totaling only 2,402 MW capacity installed during the year.

This marks the lowest figures since 2011, 55 percent less than what was installed the year prior. The figure also does not factor in the year's decommissioned turbines, bringing net expansion down to 2,154 MW: Only half of the 4 GW which Agora Energiewende factored in as contributing to the necessary annual onshore wind expansion if Germany is to reach its goal of 65 percent renewable power in 2030, set by the two governing parties last year.

"But it goes without saying that the government's 65 percent target cannot be achieved by continuing the current expansion that is in sight," says the CEO of interest organization VDMA Power Systems, Matthias Zelinger.

It was long known that installation would decline in 2018, largely due to the fact that the previous year saw a very high number of installations ahead of the shift to a tender model.

Another reason is that the tender model awarded the majority of the capacity to citizen projects in the first half year, which were then given 54 months to install their turbines. Many of the projects had not yet secured permits to install farms prior to the tender, halting development.

Permit issues

One major issue with permits is that there is a growing tendency for many projects to be subsequently appealed, further slowing down the process. Tighter regulation across various federal states has also led to more restrictions.

Very few licenses are issued in Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein. In order to meet growing demand from a modern energy industry, all states must participate in the expansion," says the head of interest organization BWE, Wolfram Axthelm.

"In order to ensure attractive competition, permit red tape must be reduced in the states. And players must help secure the conditions for more permits."

Expecting 2 GW this year

From a national politics perspective, however, further MW have been secured. Ahead of the planned installations, several extra tenders were carried out last year, bringing capacity up from 2,710 MW in 2018 to 3,765 MW this year, 4,100 MW in 2020 and 4,250 MW in 2021. There is also the opportunity to participate in several technology neutral solar and wind tenders.

The next tender wil be held in February, when 700 MW will be up for grabs after the latest tender was undersubscribed. According to Windguard, projects totaling up to 1,840 MW can participate in the upcoming tender – of which half is made up of projects that did not manage the limit for installations via the transition system which expired last year.

Despite the volumes, BWE and VDMA Power System do not expect much from 2019. They project an expansion of approximately 2,000 MW, and that the market will first recover cadence in 2021.

A market of several GW is still a feat, while a look back at what was actually built in 2018 indicates what was ultimately installed.

Wind heavy states such as Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia installed the most turbines, while Schleswig-Holstein fell behind by 147 MW. The trend of deploying larger turbines continues, which in 2018 had an average hub height of 132 meters, an average power of 3,233 MW and a specific rotor load of 303 W per m2.

German Enercon seems to have had a particularly strong year. Figures from Germany's Federal Network Agency, Bundesnetzagentur, show that the German manufacturer accounted for more than half of the installed GW, although the agency's figures are only updated with turbines which began operations before Dec. 1. Only Vestas had a double-digit market share, with over one quarter of capacity.

English Edit: Lena Rutkowski

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