Interview of the week
“Everyone urgently needs planning security”
In 2013, 1,154 onshore wind turbines with a total output of 2,998.41 megawatts (MW) were installed in Germany. At least 766 MW of this total went towards repowering turbines. At the same time, old turbines with an output of some 258 MW were dismantled. According to calculations made by Deutsche WindGuard on behalf of VDMA and BWE, Germany had 23,645 wind turbines with a total output of 33,729.83 MW at the end of the year. These figures represent growth of almost 30 percent compared with the previous year. The average turbine installed in 2013 had a hub height of 117 metres, a rotor diameter of 95 metres and an output of just under 2.6 MW. In terms of regional distribution of growth, the northern German states generally come out on top. Rhineland-Palatinate, however, also occupies a top spot with a wind power output of over 2,300 MW – more than all the other southern states put together. The offshore sector also achieved peak performance in terms of newly installed output in 2013 – albeit at a significantly lower level. Turbines operating out at sea currently have an output of just over 520 MW, while another 395 MW are tied up in turbines awaiting connection to the grid.
new energy: Mr Losada, Germany’s installed wind power capacity hit a ten-year peak as regards output last year. Do you see this trend continuing in 2014?
Felix Losada: At Nordex, we are expecting to see installation figures continue to grow over the coming year. We have been anticipating these developments for some time now, as the uncertainty about the future of funding in Germany is having a “pull-forward effect”. We also expect the German government to take this protection of legitimate interests seriously, and to overturn the deadline of 22 January 2014 for funding under the new Renewable Energy Sources Act. [Editor’s note: German economics minister Sigmar Gabriel announced in his white paper on the switch to renewables that the protection of legitimate interests would be limited to those projects that were approved under the Federal Immission Control Act before 22 January.] As regards 2015, it is important for all parties involved – project developers, banks, suppliers and manufacturers – that they soon have clear planning security in terms of policy. The first drafts of the amended Renewable Energy Sources Act still do not contain any concrete suggestions for the initial feed-in tariff.
ne: How do you see the German market developing over the coming years in comparison to other countries? Will Germany continue to be one of the largest European markets?
Losada: On a European scale, Germany will certainly continue to be one of the most important markets over the coming years. The German government currently envisages yearly expansion of 2,500 MW in the onshore wind energy sector as a source of inexpensive electricity. However, it is important that the present fuzziness of the policymakers’ drafts, as described above, be clarified quickly. Additionally, we have to arrive at a sound tendering process, also as regards taking EU requirements into consideration. In the Asian markets, Nordex is concentrating on promising selected markets such as Pakistan or the Philippines, and we are expecting significant growth in this sector over the coming years. We are no longer focusing on the Chinese market – much like the Indian market in the past.
ne: The average generator output of onshore wind turbines in Germany came close to the 2,600-kilowatt mark in 2013 – another big leap forward in comparison to the previous year. Will a limit be reached soon or will we see the average turbine output continue to grow in the coming years?
Losada: In 2013, Nordex introduced its new turbine generation Delta, featuring efficient 3 to 3.3 MW turbines for all wind classes. In our view, this will also mean a slight increase in average generator output. But what’s more crucial is that we continue to lower electricity production costs. Yield, as well as efficiency, plays an important role in this.
ne: Hub height has also continued to rise, with the average now at 117 metres. Will this growth spurt come to an end or can we expect turbines to keep getting taller?
Losada: We have already built onshore turbines with heights of 140 metres. So the average value of 117 metres is certainly going to rise once a certain number of higher onshore turbines has been installed. Further developments will be affected by building regulations on height and distance.
ne: At least a quarter of the capacity installed in 2013 came from repowered turbines. Do you think that this share will increase even more this year?
Losada: That is difficult for us to predict, since repowering projects only played a secondary role in Nordex’s installations in 2013. In the long term we can expect the share of dismantled turbines to grow considerably.
ne: In 2013, Bavaria came sixth among the German states with expansion of 250 MW, while Baden-Württemberg was down in 13th place with just under 32 MW. How do you see things developing in Germany’s southern states in the coming years?
Losada: An expansion of wind energy in Germany’s southern states is essential if the switch to renewables is to succeed. Statements published by the German government saying that projects in locations with reference yields of under 77.5 percent should no longer qualify for priority use could seriously endanger the success of the switch to renewables. But it is also true that we shouldn’t use all available space.
ne: Rhineland-Palatinate came second among the German states last year, with 413 MW of expansion. As a turbine manufacturer, how have you responded to the growing onshore market? And what could this mean for future technical developments?
Losada: In addition to the expansion of our service network and sales team in the southern states, we have been preparing for the growing market of low-wind regions since 2011, for example with the launch of our onshore turbine N117/2400. This turbine has now become the basis for doubling our market share in Germany. It accounted for about 75 percent of our installations in Germany last year. Its high efficiency allows us to make many inland locations economically viable. Last year, we introduced the fourth generation of our series of multi-megawatt turbines, generation Delta, so we now have a highly efficient fleet of products for all wind classes in our portfolio. With bigger rotors, more rated power, higher hub heights, optimised technical systems and low noise emissions, the N131/3000 is a prime example of a product that meets the German government’s new requirements.
The complete study by Deutsche WindGuard can be downloaded here.