DusseldorfWhen Monika Nentwig-Nolden gets up in the morning, she enjoys the wide view of the fields and meadows from her farm. The life in the countryside near Dusseldorf loves the 58-year-old since childhood. Here she grew up.
Rather by chance, she learned at the beginning of the year that not even 600 meters from her house two wind turbines are to be set up. If the petite woman with the short gray hair thinks about it, she can only shake her head. Nobody asked her, let alone talked to her before. "We learned about it from the newspaper."
Like Nentwig-Nolden, almost all residents live in Vorst, a district of Tönisvorst in North Rhine-Westphalia. And that's exactly what the citizens do not want to put up with. In January, 60 of them joined together in an initiative, they have collected more than a thousand signatures and filed opposition to the building permit.
For Klaus Schulze-Langenhorst this means that seven years of work could now have been in vain. "We have all permits, from nature, to species and noise protection. And of course the building permit. The area was designated as a potential wind location by the community, and we have already contacted the landowners in 2015, "he says. But now it's time to stop. And if he's unlucky, this stalemate can last for years.
Vorst may only have two wind turbines, but the case exemplifies the problem of the green flagship industry in Europe's number one windland. Over 30,000 mills revolve around Germany's fields and meadows. For two years, however, there is hardly any progress. In view of the meager results of the previous tender for onshore wind projects, the Federal Network Agency even speaks of "a new, worrying dimension".
According to an analysis by the Wind Aid Agency (FA Wind), the development situation in the first quarter of 2019 was as bad as it had been since the turn of the millennium. Only 41 wind turbines with a total capacity of 134 megawatts were added in the first months of the year. Compared to previous years, the market has thus collapsed by almost 90 percent.
The biggest problem: The population's resistance to the now up to 200 meters high industrial plants is growing. Hardly any wind farm is being built without being complained about. Over 1000 citizens' initiatives all over Germany are now fighting against the construction of new facilities – even in court.
The average process time for the necessary approvals has almost tripled in the last few years to 700 to 800 days. Nature conservation associations and citizens complain more and more often, even if the building permit is already present. The agency for wind on land estimates that at least 750 megawatts of power are idle because lawsuits are pending. Wind power is supposed to become the energy source of the future.
But although the agreement for the further expansion of renewable energy in Germany, according to a survey by the Agency for Renewable Energies at 93 percent, the number of wind power opponents is growing and it is gaining in clout.
In Brandenburg, Germany's third-largest wind location, Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) has launched a planned Federal Council initiative, which is primarily about the abolition of wind power privilege in the Building Code. In Schleswig-Holstein, a moratorium was imposed, where new wind turbines can only be built with special permission.
Bavaria already introduced the strictest legislation in 2014, at that time still under Horst Seehofer (CSU): the so-called distance control system 10H. That means, with 200 meter high wind wheels a distance of two kilometers to settlements must be kept.
The expansion of wind power has almost come to a standstill in the Free State. The same is currently the aim of not only the black and yellow government in North Rhine-Westphalia. There, Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) wants to have a flat-rate distance regulation of wind turbines to residential areas of 1500 meters prescribed by law.
At the federal level, conservatives are now calling for a flat-rate settlement. "In our eyes, it requires a distance of at least 1000 meters between a wind turbine and the nearest residential area," says Jens Koeppen. The CDU politician from Brandenburg is a member of the AG Acceptance. The working group at the federal level is to negotiate for the grand coalition how the expansion of renewable energies in Germany will continue.
At the top of the list is the problem with wind power. Bernd Westphal, energy policy spokesman for the SPD and also a member of the working group, does not believe, however, that more distance leads to more acceptance. "It makes no sense to limit one of the most important energy sources of the future now. That would be counterproductive, "he says.
In any case, the citizens in Vorst are in favor of the planned distance regulation in NRW. "We are not talking about sweet mills like in Holland, but of high, depressing, sometimes very noisy industrial plants," explains Angela Wolff, also a member of the citizens' initiative. For the 45-year-old native of Vienna, wind turbines are "a rape of the landscape".
Other residents worry about the volume or fear health consequences due to the infrasound – so the sound, the frequency is below the human hearing. Monika Nentwig-Nolden's main concern is species conservation. "If these two wind turbines come here, I can use the garbage bag to collect the birds that have died to death in the morning," she is convinced.
"One refers again and again to the dying of the birds. But if it was really about protection of species, we would have to close all roads, "says Michael Diestel. The graduate farmer is the chairman of Agro-Kraft GmbH, a Bavarian company that has set itself the task of implementing wind, solar and biogas projects cooperatively with the population. But he also observes the increasingly negative attitude of the population when it comes to a windmill in the neighborhood.
For almost nine years, Diestel has fought with 450 citizens from six different communities for the construction of a wind farm in the district of Rhön-Grabfeld in Bavaria. The participants had collected 1.3 million euros. Cost and profit should be shared fairly.
The acceptance was great, even the conservation association (Nabu) gave his okay. A local bird sanctuary but not. Many editions, complaints and years later had to give the motivated citizens beaten. Now even millions of euros to build the mills, but no one had the strength, says Diestel.
Today, ten wind turbines still turn between Streu and Saale. The now insolvent turbine manufacturer Senvion had paid off the investors and taken over the project. "The hurdles for citizens are now simply too high," complains Diestel. He sees the only way for a successful energy transition in cooperation with the citizens.
Only 50 kilometers away from Rhön-Grabfeld stands another project. Only a few weeks ago, the Landratsamt in Munich stopped the construction of ten wind turbines due to a form error. After local residents and a nature conservation association had sued, the case landed in court.
Most of the foundations have been cast, first parts of the plant have already been delivered, but now the judicially imposed construction freeze applies. It can take several months to reach a final verdict, and even years to be repeated.
"Biogas is through, you want photovoltaic parks only along railway lines, and no one wants highways and wind power. How should we achieve our climate goals? "Asks Diestel.
Wind energy should make up the main component of the electricity mix
By 2030, the federal government wants to increase the share of renewable energies in the electricity mix from the current 38 percent to 65 percent. Most of it should shoulder wind energy. Currently more than 55 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity are installed in Germany.
The German Wind Energy Association expects that it will need an additional 4.5 GW per year to achieve this goal in eleven years. A blanket distance regulation is anything but expedient, warns union president Hermann Albers.
But also the Federal Environmental Agency warns against blanket distances for wind power. Already 1000 meters would reduce the currently available area for the construction of wind turbines in some cases by up to 50 percent. In response to a small request from the FDP parliamentary group last year, the Federal Government also states that there is no connection between higher distance regulations and higher acceptance. Accordingly, the participation of residents in the planning process, the financial participation of the citizens – or even to what extent the added value of the respective wind park in the region remains much more important.
Nentwig-Nolden of the citizens' initiative in Vorst does not consider this theory to be completely absurd. "If we had previously talked about it, revealed the opportunities, risks and problems, we might think differently about the project. But that just makes you feel stupid, "she says. In principle, you have nothing against the energy transition, as long as it happens together with the citizens.
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