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How inefficient is German wind power?

Germany has focused entirely on renewable energies and is promoting wind turbines throughout the country. However, the operators do not reveal how high the utilisation of their turbines actually are. It has now been calculated and the result has led to a depressing conclusion.

Published: November 14, 2022, 7:36 am

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    Some 28 000 larger wind turbines are in operation in Germany and no one knows how many of them are profitable. Germany’s wind farm operators hide the data “like a state secret”, reported the NZZ. Therefore, the Swiss daily examined and calculated the utilisation with the help of a simulation for 18 000 of these plants. To do this, it “evaluated hourly weather data over a period of ten years”.

    The result is sobering, in some cases even shocking.

    Wind power can only survive with subsidies

    Without a certain capacity utilisation, a turbine is not economically viable. According to the head of the Stuttgart Chair of Wind Energy, Po Wen Cheng, this requires a utilisation rate of about 30 percent. According to research by the NZZ, just 15 percent of the turbines have a utilisation rate of more than 30 percent. If one also takes into account that wind turbines are often shut down due to noise and environmental protection regulations, the percentage is probably even lower.

    In just under a quarter of the wind turbines studied, the capacity is less than 20 percent. “Such plants are only viable thanks to the German subsidy system, which also rewards poor locations.” On average in Germany, the capacity utilisation of wind turbines is just 24 per cent.

    There is no wind where industries are

    The situation becomes even more alarming when one considers how the wind turbines are distributed geographically. Most electricity is needed where German industry is located. The problem is that the wind is not oriented towards the locations of industry. It blows mainly in the north, which is why the majority – 83 percent – of the wind turbines that are well utilised are located there.

    However, industry is mainly located in the Ruhr area and in the southernmost federal states – Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. The electricity gap is also greatest in these regions. But the south in particular has very little wind, which is why the poorly utilised wind turbines are primarily located there. While in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s most northerly federal state, the utilisation of wind turbines averages 31 percent, in the wind-poor Baden-Württenberg it is only 17 percent.

    That is why huge power lines are now being built to transport the electricity to where it is actually needed, reported the NZZ.

    Investors are not interested

    This does not bode well for the future, and it does not bode well for Germany’s energy policy. By the end of 2023, all federal states are to reserve two percent of their land for wind power – despite these enormous differences. The NZZ doubted that investors would be found for this. Especially in the south, where electricity is needed most urgently, hardly anyone wants to invest which is not surprising.

    Germany as a business location is currently hitting the wall at full throttle, as all new figures reveal almost daily. A single current figure makes it clear how far Europe’s economic engine has already fallen far behind: one single US state (out of a total of 50) has meanwhile overtaken Germany. According to the portal, California now has a larger GDP than Germany.

    Taking into account the latest growth numbers, California currently already has a lead of $72 billion over Germany. However, the figures for 2022 will not be published until next year.

    In 2021, Germany’s gross domestic product lead ($4.22 trillion, compared to California’s at $3.357 trillion) was reported to have been the smallest in history – and even that marginal difference has since melted away, if current numbers are to be believed. “If California were a sovereign state, it would overtake Germany as the fourth largest economy in the world,” commented the portal. With around 39 million inhabitants, California has less than half the population of Germany.

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