The German economy is sending out a clear signal to the energy sector. The German wind energy market grew by 15 percent last year. That is even more impressive considering that the number of new facilities in other industry sectors that were built was considerably less than in years past.
Along with new investments, the replacement of older wind turbines with newer models, or so called repowering, leads to an increase in energy production while at the same time minimizing any effects on the landscape. Offshore wind farms such as the German pilot project Alpha Ventus and the trend to smaller wind turbines are also helping to keep wind and renewable energy on the path to success.
In the German state of Brandenburg, the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) and the German Society for Environment and Nature Protection (BUND) are speaking out for the expansion of wind energy. NABU state director Tom Kirschey aims to make the authorization of more concentrated wind parks easier in order to avoid the construction of new parks in untouched landscapes. This fits in line with the goal of the nature preservation societies to move towards putting an end to brown coal mining. Along with the harmful effects on the climate from strip mining, this form of energy production destroys the natural landscape much more than the construction of wind turbines, which are less harmful to the flora and fauna.
New insights into the effects of wind parks on the animals in the ecosystem also support this policy decision. Bird species such as cranes, whose numbers are growing in Brandenburg, as well as hobbies and short-eared owls do not seem to have serious problems with wind turbines. “The animals are able to learn. They have adapted,” explains Kirschey. This is not the case for all birds, however. The requirements pertaining to the minimum distances from species like lesser spotted eagles and great bustards have to be expanded. Nature reserves and protected landscapes remain removed from consideration as potential wind park locations. The regional secretary of BUND Axel Kruschat also sees plenty of potential for other regenerative energy sources, such as geothermal power, biomass and photovoltaics, to be expanded.