Germany’s wind power grows 15 percent in 2009

21,164 wind turbines with a total capacity of 25,800 MW were installed in Germany altogether by the end of 2009. The German association of Wind Energy said 952 new wind turbines were installed across the country last year, increasing the power supplied by wind power to about 26,000 megawatts.

Wind energy developers installed 952 turbines with together 1,917MW of new capacity in Germany in 2009, 15% more than the 1,665MW that went in the ground in 2008.

One of the largest contributors was a new wind farm offshore in the northern coast of Germany. Nationwide, Germany has 21,164 wind turbines and remains one of the world’s leading producers of wind energy. This brought the country’s wind fleet to a total 21,164 turbines increasing the overall capacity to 25,777MW at the end of 2009.

Despite the increase in capacity, wind generation last year was disappointing. Output reached an estimated 37.5TWh in 2009, down from 40.6TWh in 2008 and 39.7TWh in 2007.

The improved performance was partly due to commissioning of projects that had been delayed from 2008 into 2009 in order to benefit from higher payments /kWh for wind generated power in 2009, of €0.092 /kWh, compared with €0.0803/kWh in 2008. The feed-in tariffs are guaranteed for a 20-year period under conditions set out in the renewable energy act.

The rise in installed generation capacity was helped by an increase of repowering, the modernization of existing facilities with more efficient wind turbines.

The strongest growing market is China, which had wind turbines installed last year capable of producing 12,000 megawatts. The United States had an increase of 9,900 megawatts, BWE said.

Germany will maintain its lead at the top of the European wind energy table in 2020 with a total installed capacity of up to 52,000MW, according to the latest figures calculated by the European Wind Energy Association.

By 2020, BWE envisages that wind power could meet a massive 25% of Germany’s electricity consumption.

However, BWE cautions that to reach this level a speedy expansion of the grid, using underground cables in some areas, is vital. Meanwhile, the overall electricity transport capacity of the grid needs to be improved with measures such as load flow management and high temperature conductors, BWE says.

Offshore wind farms are set to be part of wind power’s continued expansion in Germany. New rules agreed last year have finally made offshore wind financially viable, BWE says, but continued research is necessary into offshore wind.

The wind energy sector employs around 100,000 people in Germany.

German-Chinese wind power row

The current standing of German wind turbine manufacturers in the Chinese market is "disastrous, bottom of the barrel," Thorsten Herdan of the German Engineering Federation, or VDMA, said at a news conference held by the German wind industry. The Chinese government is trying to make entry harder for foreign companies, Herdan said.

China already is the world’s fastest-growing wind market, with the United States following as a close second and Germany a distant third. China has nearly doubled its wind power capacity with up to 12,000 MW coming online in 2009.

The U.S. market also grew significantly, with 9,922 MW generation capacity added — a surprising development in the year of the economic downturn. "Nobody expected such a significant growth in the United States. German companies are massively profiting from this development," Herdan said. At home, the likes of Siemens, Enercon and REpower are outfitting a stable German market.

Nearly 2,000 MW worth of capacity was installed in 2009, a 15-percent growth compared with the previous year. After years of delay, Germany finally built its first offshore wind farm, with 12 turbines turning in the North Sea. The German wind energy industry today employs around 100,000 people.

Herrmann Albers, the president of the German Wind Energy Association, or BWE, said wind energy has been the German government’s "most effective climate protection tool" — and more than that.

"We can’t be called a bridging technology anymore," he said, adding that the renewable-energy industry has promised Chancellor Angela Merkel it can satisfy 47 percent of the country’s power demand by 2020.

That would require, however, a complete overhaul of the country’s — and Europe’s — power grid so it can better integrate the fluctuating renewables. Energy experts have long called for this so-called smart grid.

While growth in Germany still tops Europe, most capacity will be added in the United States and Asia. Germany should be well prepared for that trend: Around 80 percent of German turbines are exported, with Siemens and REpower the only companies in the world producing turbines specifically designed for use in offshore farms. "Every fourth turbine in the world today is a German one," Albers said.