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Upward Trend: Growth of German Wind Power Picks Up Speed – Except in Bavaria

The expansion of wind power in Germany is gaining momentum again. This is evident from an analysis compiled by the Southwestern German Broadcasting Corporation (SWR) based on data from the Federal Network Agency. According to this analysis, a total of 1466 new wind turbines were approved in 2023. The Federal Ministry of Economics informed SWR that in 2023, the number of wind turbine approvals granted matched the levels last seen in 2016.

Almost 8 gigawatts of power capacity were newly approved, representing an 80% increase. “However, recently implemented measures are just beginning to take effect,” the ministry stated. “Further actions are underway. If consistently implemented, they have the potential to further accelerate the process.”

For the first time in several years of stagnation, a positive trend is emerging. Last year saw 977 wind turbines approved by the relevant authorities, while in the downturn year of 2019, there were only 477. “The laws of the federal government are beginning to take effect,” said a spokesperson for the German Wind Energy Association (BWE). “This has also led to a positive sentiment within the industry, which is looking to the future with optimism not seen in a long time.”

NRW Tops Again

Significant differences are evident when comparing the federal states, but the upward trend is noticeable almost everywhere. Once again, North Rhine-Westphalia leads the way in new approvals by a significant margin, with 364 new wind turbines approved. This is significantly higher than the previous year (200) and three times more than in 2019.

There is also a strong increase in Schleswig-Holstein, where twice as many wind turbines were approved on the coast last year compared to 2022 (123). There is also noticeable growth in several southern states. Rhineland-Palatinate (89) and Hesse (82) have approximately doubled their figures in 2023 compared to the previous year. Baden-Württemberg remains at a relatively lower level, but also recorded a one-third increase to 59 approvals. In Eastern Germany, Brandenburg (144) surpasses Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (124) and Saxony-Anhalt (64).

No Upswing in Bavaria

Bavaria, the largest state in terms of area, remains at the bottom among the larger states. With only 17 approvals, Bavaria lags significantly behind the smaller federal states and is far behind among the states with larger land area.

In response to SWR’s inquiry, the responsible Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs stated that despite the mere 17 approvals, they see the development “very positively.” They are confident that “the goal of the Bavarian state government to add 1000 new wind turbines by 2030 can be achieved.” To reach this goal, around 150 wind turbines need to be erected in Bavaria annually, a level that has never been achieved in the past.

“Toothless Tiger”

Criticism of the Bavarian state government is growing, even from the business sector. A spokesperson for the Bavarian business initiative “Windrat” complained to SWR that the “wind energy offensive” announced by the state government is a “toothless tiger.” Wind power expansion in Bavaria is being partially slowed down by the administration; planning and approval processes are being delayed. In the future, the Bavarian economy will need affordable wind power. Additionally, expansion will create value and jobs locally.

BWE also criticizes the state of Bavaria. According to them, excessively large distance regulations for wind turbines have “long acted as a defense mechanism against wind energy. This has practically made it impossible to provide land for wind energy.” Availability of renewable energies is becoming an increasingly decisive location factor for investment decisions.

The Bavarian state chairman of BWE, Bernd Wust, is now calling for a “Bavarian Task Force for Wind Energy.” Current approval and expansion figures are “far behind the self-set goals.” Approvals need to be simplified, and expansion in Bavaria must be massively accelerated. “Even in the November tender, only ten out of a total of 165 awards went to Bavaria. We need to significantly increase the pace,” Bernd Wust urges.

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