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National context synthesis

Wind Energy in Germany


About the project

Project partners

Project results

European conference



Late start but successful progressive and targeted legislation

Germany developed its windy coastline at the beginning of the 90s and then pushed inland to develop sites with lower wind regimes as the decade progressed.

On the surface, Germany's success is partially due to the technological advantage it derived from its relatively late start. When California and Denmark were developing their best sites in the 80s, average turbine size was 55 kW. When Germany began to develop wind energy in the early 90s, it benefited from the rapid increases in turbine size and was able to install larger and more efficient turbines from the outset (see Figure 1 ). As an illustration of this, Germany and Denmark had the same number of turbines installed by 1995, but Germany had 1,132 MW of installed power, while Denmark only had 630 MW. Though this may help Germany's raw numbers, Germany's success is primarily attributable to a decade of progressive and targeted legislation.


Figure 1: Development of size of wind turbines in Germany

One factor contributing to Germany's delayed start was the German response to the oil crises. While California focused on developing alternative energy technologies, Germany's energy strategy focused on its 20 nuclear reactors, 13 of which were built between 1979 and 1989. A second factor was the powerful conventional energy oligopoly that controlled both generation and transmission nation-wide. The oligopoly used its control to effectively block wind energy development. By the late 80s, however, a growing environmental movement began to affect the energy debate in the German Bundestag and the energy policy of the Federal Government.


The 12,000 MW of wind capacity installed in Germany by the end of 2002 represented more than one third of the world's total and half of Europe's total. This capacity currently meets 4.5% and will rise up to 5.0 % during 2003 of Germany's national electricity need (see Figure 2 ), with that figure rising as high as 30% in such as Schleswig-Holstein.

Figure 2: electricity production by wind energy in Germany

After a record-breaking year in 2001, in which 2,659 MW were brought online, many expected the German market to approach saturation. Pessimists were disappointed in 2002, however, as records were again shattered by the addition of 3,247 MW of newly installed power representing a growth rate of 37 %. What is surprising about Germany's success is that its wind resource is relatively low compared to that of other nations in Europe. While few wind resource areas in Germany have winds above 7.5 m/s, few sites in Great Britain have wind speeds below that amount. Also, the constraints of Germany's population density makes wind development more expensive than in spacious nations like the United States.

Market perspectives

As stated previously, land use limitations and population density will be the limiting factors in future development. Though there may be some sites still unidentified by less enthusiastic communities in the south of the country, most of the inland sites will soon be developed. In total, an additional 5,000 MW of onshore capacity is expected over the next few years.

One answer to the expected saturation is an emerging trend called “repowering,” in which older turbines are replaced by larger modern models. When Germany first began to exploit its wind resource in the early 90s, small turbines were installed in coastal regions. As a result, old and comparatively less productive turbines now occupy much of Germany's best wind real estate. The current plan to repower these sites with megawatt-class turbines would double the installed capacity while cutting the number of turbines in half. Repowering is already an attractive option to many operators because of the increasing O&M costs associated with ageing turbines. The REL further encourages repowering through an incentive that encourages new turbine installation. With this incentive in place, the current short-term prediction of additional capacity from repowering is 1,500 megawatts by 2010.

A second answer to the expected saturation is the development of offshore wind locations. In order to jumpstart the market, Germany has made offshore development a top priority through the REL. While the higher fixed price window is only five years for new onshore projects, it is extended to nine years for offshore projects. In response to this incentive, plans have already been developed for gigawatt-sized farms at sites up to 50 km from shore and in water depths up to 30 m. If current trends continue, the installed offshore capacity will amount to 20,000 to 25,000 MW by 2030 and will meet 15% of Germany's national electricity need.


Population density (hab/km2)


Wind potential (rank among the fifteen members states)


Wind capacity installed in 2003 (MW)

13 200

% of electricity from wind origin in the national consumption (%)


Average capacity of wind turbines in 2002 (kW)

1 400

Average time for planning procedures (years)

1 to 3

Wind energy's job creation (cumulated 2003)

45 000

The REL guarantees wind turbines a premium price of 0.09 € per kilowatt-hour for the first five years of operation. After 5 years, the site quality is evaluated against a predefined standard of performance. If site yield is at least 150% of the standard, then the guaranteed price for that site drops to 0.06 € per kilowatt-hour. For sites with yields less than 150% of the standard, the 0.09 € rate is prolonged by two months for every 0.75% that the yield is under 150% of the standard. Weaker sites are thus compensated at a rate that ensures cost-effective operation, while windier sites are not over compensated. This mechanism provides an incentive for inland site development since weaker wind regimes command the higher compensation rate for longer periods of time. Furthermore, the higher rates mean that developers can more easily secure credit for inland sites that were previously difficult to finance. Both tariff levels are reduced yearly by 1.5% since the beginning of 2002. The actual (2003) level for feed-in tariffs is 0.089 € and 0.059 €.


Legislation for Energy (Energie Wirtschafts Gesetz EnWG)

A large change to the electricity law was the liberalisation of the electricity system in 1998 that opened for all consumers to choose their own suppliers. Former utilities were obliged to split into separate companies for electricity production, grid operation, i.e. electricity transport and electricity trading

A new regulation is foreseen for summer 2004 which will include the installation of a regulator for the electricity market. Beside others one of the tasks of the regulator will be the supervision of access to the grid and the control of fees for grid utilisation.

Legislation for Renewable Energies

Stromeinspeisungsgesetz or Electricity Feed-in Law (EFL) was passed through the German Bundestag in 1990 and was set into force in January 1991. The EFL ignited the German wind industry by guaranteeing grid connection and a Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff (REFIT) to RES generators. Under the law, hydropower, landfill gas, sewage gas and biomass producers were guaranteed at least 80% of the retail consumer price for the electricity they produced. Wind and solar producers, meanwhile, were given a 90% price guarantee.

In April 2000 the Renewable Energy sources act (EEG) was set into force. Fixed tariffs were regulated independently from electricity prices. Tariffs for wind are defined by wind conditions on site in respect to a reference site. Access to the grid and costs for grid connection are regulated. Grid reinforcement costs have to be born by grid operator.

Modification of EEG is foreseen for summer 2004. New regulations for offshore installations and some adaptations of tariffs are expected

Legislation for installation of wind turbines

Legislation for building was changed in 1998. At §35 of building act a paragraph which gives privilege to wind turbines in outside areas was added. This gave better planning security to project developers. Federal law gives only a framework for regulations on local level.

The spatial planning is regulated by Federal
law of immission protection
(Bundes Immisionsschutz Gesetz BimSchG).
Limits for noise immission, shadow flicker, etc. are defined.

Since August 2001 the act for environmental impact assessment (UVPG) is added. For project with more than six wind turbines an EIA is obligatory. Between three and six turbines there is a simplified procedure.