Library from Germany
E.ON (nyse: EON - news - people ) AG said it is planning to build a wind park off the coast of Yorkshire, where about 80 turbines will generate up to 300 MW of energy.
After the industry's recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting. Gearboxes hiding inside the casings perched on top of the towering masts have short shelf lives, often crapping out before even five years is up. In some cases, fractures form along the rotors, or even in the foundation, after only limited operation. Short circuits or overheated propellers have been known to cause fires. All this despite manufacturers' promises that the turbines would last at least 20 years.
DER SPIEGEL spoke to German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel and to Utz Claassen, the CEO of Germany's third largest energy provider, EnBW, about whether nuclear energy can provide a way out of the climate crisis.......Claassen: It may be true that we would have made more progress in the area of renewable energy sources. But most renewable energy sources do not have the capacity to provide the base load. SPIEGEL: "Base load" is the term for the output constantly required by the electricity grid. Claassen: Without nuclear energy, we would have to cover the base load almost exclusively by means of fossil fuels, namely black coal and brown coal, meaning that we would have emitted more CO2 today, not less, even if it had proven possible to develop renewable energy source technologies more quickly. A study by the German Energy Agency (DENA) -- not a study by the energy industry, that is, but one by the center of competence for energy efficiency in Germany -- came to the following conclusion: When 37,000 megawatts of wind power capacity have been installed, that will make 6 percent of those fossil fuel or nuclear plant capacities that can provide the base load obsolete. So 2,300 conventional megawatt blocks of coal or nuclear energy could then be abandoned.
Subsidies for Germany's solar industry will be cut back more than previously announced to free up funds for offshore wind power plants, sources close to the German environment ministry said. The government plans to increase the maximum subsidy for wind power to 0.11-0.14 eur per kilowatt hour from currently 0.09 eur, the sources said. The changes will also force solar power firms to increase the profitability of their facilities if subsidies are cut. German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel is expected to make a statement on the Renewable Energies Law today.
Europe's wind power market will more than double by 2015 as Spain remains the biggest producer, a study said. Europe's installed generating capacity for electricity produced by wind turbines will expand an average nine gigawatts a year to 130.8 gigawatts in 2015, from 48.5 gigawatts at the end of 2006, according to the study by Emerging Energy Research, based in Cambridge, Mass. Spain and Germany will account for more than half of the expansion over the next eight years, though east European markets will grow rapidly as 2015 approaches, it said. Utilities in northern Europe are likely to dominate the growing market for offshore wind power.
Why is Germany considering the building of up to 26 coal-fired power stations when they already have 17,000 wind turbines whirring away to the delight of the European green lobby? Why? Because German E.ON who are doing a roaring trade building windfarms in Scotland and Wales have admitted in their own reports that however many wind turbines they build or sell, without the right back-up they will not provide grid security and herald power cuts across Europe. E.ON UK must be aware of this shortcoming of their parent company's technology. Surely, it is only fair for them to warn their collaborators in Britain like Greenpeace, and FOE, to name but a few, before it is too late.
But the fact is that most alternative power technologies aren't a true solution to the globe's energy problems. The best illustration of this is the long-time poster child of the alternative energy movement, wind power. Apart from hydropower, wind is the most economically viable, developed and feasible alternative energy source. But wind's contribution to the global electric grid is all too often overstated.............At first blush, these facts suggest that the nation's energy policy and wind power industry are a smashing success. But that brings us to the clever marketing trick used by many alternative energy firms; there's a major difference between the terms capacity and generation. Namely, just because a utility may own a plant with 1,000 megawatts of capacity doesn't mean that plant is operating at that capacity at all times. In fact, that's highly unlikely to be the case, particularly for wind power. That's because the speed of wind in an area at a particular point in time is unpredictable. Moreover, even relatively small variations in wind speed can mean large changes in power output from wind turbines. The rated capacity of a wind farm is far less important than how much those wind farms actually contribute to the grid in the form of generated electricity. If we look at Germany in that light, we get a far less impressive picture. Only 5 percent of Germany's electricity generation in 2006 came from wind. Bottom line: As impressive as offshore wind farms may be to behold, those strings of thousands of windmills located on the Baltic just aren't a particularly important source of power for Germany.
The world's first floating wind turbine could be generating electricity in the North Sea in 2009 under a research pact between Norwegian energy group Norsk Hydro and German engineering firm Siemens. Floating wind turbines would represent a technological breakthrough for offshore power generation, which has had to rely on shallow sites for turbines installed on the seabed.
German courts are starting to deal with a unique new crime - stealing wind. As Europe's greenest country builds ever more electricity-producing wind farms, so the rights to nature are now being fought over by lawyers. Among the cases being considered by a Leipzig court is a dispute between the operators of two wind turbine facilities. At issue: who owns the wind?
GERMAN courts are starting to deal with a new crime - stealing the wind. As Europe's greenest country builds ever more electricity-producing wind farms, so the rights to nature are now being fought over by lawyers.... A court in Leipzig is hearing a case involving a dispute between the operators of two wind turbine facilities. At issue: who owns the wind?The current operator claims that to build another new turbine nearby will create a slipstream, decreasing the speed of the airflow and, therefore, hitting the productivity - and, of course, the profits - of his windmill. "This wind theft naturally affects profits," said Martin Maslaton, a Leipzig lawyer.
German renewable energy group WPD's said Wednesday it was planning erecting a 500-600-megawatt offshore wind power park off Korsnäs on Finland's Gulf of Bothnia coast. If built, the generators would quintuple Finland's wind power generating capacity.
With a growing number of wind power stations in Germany, a new kind of legal case is rearing its ugly head. The crime: stealing wind. It's an offense not mentioned in the bible or the statute books. But in a broader sense it is about theft, even when the booty itself is invisible. But it is still a major problem for the German legal system, including a court in Leipzig that is currently hearing a case involving a dispute between the operators of two wind turbine facilities. Who owns the wind?
Not as idyllic as the image may suggest: German courts are starting to deal with increasing numbers of wind farm related cases.
The German feed-in system, called the Erneuerbare Energieen Gesetz (Renewable Energy Law or EEG) guarantees producers of sustainable power a fixed price per kWh fed into the grid. Since the introduction of the EEG in April 2000, the amount of renewable energy in Germany has more than tripled. Last year saw the production of 20,000 GWh of wind power and 18,000 GWh from other renewable sources. The share of renewables in the electricity mix has increased from 3.01% in 2000 to 10.53% in 2006. The target for 2012 is 20%. At the same time, the increasing share of renewables confronts the power sector with growing pains. They are facing an increasing input from highly variable sources. For instance, in 2004 the grid feed-in from renewable sources has varied between 1.8 and 14 GW.
Germany is a world leader in green technologies that range from hi-tech refuse sorting to solar power cells. Almost half the world's wind turbines contain German technology and every third solar cell carries the "Made in Germany" stamp.
Alsleben's new wind farm is designed to supply electricity to 30,000 homes, but when the wind stops blowing, the blades stop turning and the power output falls to zero. Critics say this underlines one essential drawback: you can't depend on wind for energy. Even if you build wind farms you still need conventional power plants in case the wind fails. "We face many hours a year with more or less no wind," says Martin Fuchs, chief executive of one of Germany's biggest electricity grid operators, E.On Netz. "We can save only a very small number of conventional power stations." Surges of wind-generated electricity risk overloading the grid, he adds, causing power blackouts. These are charges the wind power industry robustly rejects. Christian Kjaer, of the European Wind Energy Association, says all electricity grids are designed to cope with power fluctuations. "Fossil fuel or nuclear power stations are truly intermittent," he argues. "You never see 1000 megawatts of wind energy shutting down in a second, yet that's what conventional power stations do." For now, few in Germany are questioning the country's wind energy programme. The savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions are politically popular. Yet there is a lingering question-mark over the cost of all this, and whether building so many wind turbines truly makes economic sense. Editor's Note: Originally published 5/28/06
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said renewable energies could meet around 16 percent of total energy supply by 2020 — triple the current amount. At a presentation of a study on expanding renewable energies in Berlin on Tuesday, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said such an expansion of renewable energy sources would not be difficult and has “great potential” for providing jobs. Gabriel said the alternative energies would be a “major success story. He added that the production of electricity, heat and fuels from renewable sources such as wind, biomass and solar power increased 12.8 percent in 2006 and that renewable sources now make up 5.3 percent of the energy supply. Electricity from renewable sources has a 11.8 percent share. Such expansion would gradually allow Germany to replace nuclear energy with renewables, Gabriel said. Rapid growth has also led to 50,000 new jobs in the sector since 2004 — with a current total of 214,000 in the branch. The German Space Center conducted the study for the German Environment Ministry.
Clare County Council has approved the seventh wind farm in the county despite some local opposition. This follows German company Pro Ventum securing planning permission for a €10 million six-turbine wind farm at Tullabrack near Kilrush. It is the second wind farm that the company has secured permission for in the west Clare area and the previous proposal also faced opposition. Currently there are two wind farms operational in the county - the Pro Ventum wind farm at Monmore and the second 11-turbine wind farm near Connolly in mid-Clare.
High wind-power production in Germany one Saturday night helped extend a blackout across Europe. Last month, the Conservative government joined the long line of governments around the world subsidizing the production of wind power. Meanwhile, new information about wind power from Europe raises the spectre of unexpected blackout risks, high costs, unreliable production and even questionable environmental benefits. Concerns over wind power used to focus on whether enough wind would blow to keep wind generators busy and electric power grids supplied. Now, after a major power blackout in Europe in November that left 15 million households in the dark, concerns over wind power come from an entirely opposite direction – fear that wind power can unpredictably produce more power than a system can handle.
Since the oil shocks of the 1970s, governments around the world have paid plenty of lip service to renewable energies such as wind and solar power. But only a few governments have been able to engineer policies that have begun to bring alternative energies into wider use. Renewable fuels provided 18% of the world’s total electricity supply in 2004, according to figures from the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization. Almost all of that, though, came from hydropower, a source with limited growth potential because of geographic constraints. The use of wind and solar power is growing, but they still generated only 1% of global electricity production in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available.