The Supreme Court of Bavaria has upheld a controversial state wind distance rule that has already drastically reduced the number of permits for new wind farms in Germany's biggest state.
The main plaintiffs in the case against the distance rule, Green Party politicians Hans-Josef Fell and Patrick Friedl, called the verdict a "black day for climate protection in Bavaria".
"It has been made possible that with Bavaria, one of Germany's states in an isolated manner is saying goodbye to the Energiewende and is allowed to effectively stop the wind expansion," Fell said.
"Unfortunately, the necessary climate protection and the importance of wind power for the Energiewende didn't count for the court."
In late 2014, the state government enacted legislation stipulating that wind parks need to be built at a minimum distance to the nearest housing of ten times the turbine height (measured from the tower base to the tip of the blade).
As low to moderate winds predominate in the densely populated southern state, that often means a distance of about 2km, which makes most new developments impossible.
In its verdict, the Supreme Court stresses that in a so-called "opening clause," the federal government in mid-2014 had allowed individual states to curtail the privileged treatment of wind power in Germany's planning and building regulations.
While the 10H rule considerably cuts into that privileged treatment, it doesn't abolish it, the court states, adding that even with the 10H distance rule 1.7% of the state's territory could still be used for wind power.
Yet in fact, the development of wind power in the state has already experienced a clear slow-down.
More than 300 applications to install wind turbines in Bavaria were made in 2014; that dropped to ten in April-September 2015, Fell and Friedl calculate.
Only 65 permits for new turbines were granted last year, but most of those involved applications submitted under the old legislation, according to the local section of the German wind federation, BWE.
Germany has decided to replace nuclear with renewable energy by 2022. Bavaria still depends on nuclear for 40% of its power, but it will need to replace that quickly.
Without wind, that is impossible, critics argue, accusing the state government of intentionally impeding wind power in order to demand an extension of nuclear at a later stage.
Friedl and Fell call upon the population to elect parties in next year's federal election that will axe the 10H rule and take climate protection and the energy transition seriously.
Similar distance rules are being imitated elsewhere. Poland's ruling Law and Justice party is trying to push a similar law through parliament that would choke off the country's wind boom, and the incoming government of the state of Rhineland Palatinate plans to introduce a minimum distance between wind farms and the nearest housing of up to 1,100 metres.