|An onshore wind turbine under construction. Germany saw more installations in 2021, but upcoming climate targets will necessitate faster growth.
German onshore wind construction picked up pace in 2021 with 1.9 GW of fresh capacity installed, up 35% on the year.
This brings the total onshore wind fleet to 56.1 GW, made up of over 28,000 turbines, a study commissioned by the country's wind association, BWE, found. Of the total capacity additions in 2021, 244 MW were repowerings, which are new wind farms built on the site of decommissioned ones.
The report, written by Deutsche WindGuard, also recorded 233 MW of wind capacity being dismantled in 2021.
Yet BWE said growth is unsatisfactory and Europe's largest economy is not on track to meet its climate commitments. "Installations are increasing, but only in certain regions and at an overall inadequate pace. ... It is important to ensure no state wiggles out of its responsibilities, and repowering on existing sites needs to be made possible," BWE President Hermann Albers said. The permitting procedure for new onshore wind takes four to five years, BWE said.
Germany's new energy minister, the Green Party's Robert Habeck, has already committed to policies targeting these issues. In a recent policy package, Habeck pledged to reserve 2% of the country's land for wind power and to speed up permitting processes. As onshore wind matures and the most suitable areas are already developed, additional projects are more often proposed near homes or near natural protection zones. This has triggered a flurry of objections from locals and conservationists in recent years.
Additionally, Habeck wants to cut the distance requirements to air traffic signaling systems and military sites, which are also reducing the land available.
As Germany closes its nuclear and coal-fired power stations, ramping up renewables becomes even more pressing. The country has sharpened its net-zero target to 2045, and the new government wants to achieve 80% of renewables in Germany's power mix by 2030.
"Sluggish deployment will cause issues with security of supply as well as the building of expertise and innovation along the entire value chain in the medium term," said Dennis Rendschmidt, managing director of VDMA Power Systems, a co-commissioner of the study. The new German government's emphasis on building out wind through higher land allocations and auction volumes is therefore correct, Rendschmidt added.
Beyond that, better conditions for transporting the turbines and the supply of skilled personnel to install and commission the power plants are key, Rendschmidt said. Some bridges in particular need refurbishment to accommodate the transport of heavy goods and thereby cut logistics costs. And the onshore wind sector is facing challenges with finding skilled workers. Already in short supply, engineers in recent years have drifted out of onshore wind to offshore projects, which are often better paid and more attractive.