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EWEA's Features

Wind Directions exclusive: A town battling for its turbines

21.12.2009

Red tape and administrative hoops still get in the way of many European wind energy projects. Although Freiburg, Germany, is well known for being one of the greenest of cities, wind energy has been surprisingly slow to take off there.

In fact; the German Land of Baden-Württemburg, in which Freiburg is situated, has the lowest installed wind energy capacity of all the country’s Länder along with Bavaria, and this has been linked to the complexity of local planning procedures.

In 2001, the government of Baden-Württemburg called on its regions to identify suitable areas for wind energy development. Although an encouraging sign in theory, it has meant ever since in practice that “where wind farms are not specifically allowed, they are illegal”, as Walter Witzel from the German Wind Energy Association points out.

What is more, the sites considered ‘suitable’ are limited by strict nature conservation rules which often means the best wind locations cannot be used. For example, although the wind is strongest at the tops of mountains, turbines have to be put up below to reduce their visibility.

However, since 2007 the Land now has a new target for 2020 of 12% renewable energy – up from 6.5% in 2006. Coupled with Germany’s binding EU objective of 18% by 2020, the target should help wind energy continue to develop.

The greater political impetus is matched by growing local support for wind energy. Freiburg’s six wind turbines are jointly owned by over 500 local citizens, and plans are afoot to add two more machines.

It is essential that the permit and planning procedures are simplified so that the locals’ enthusiasm for wind energy, and the greater political support, can be converted into Megawatts.

Such streamlining of wind energy planning red tape is one of the overall aims of the 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive, so despite the difficulties of the past, there’s hope of a windier future for Freiburg.

Read the full story in the latest issue of Wind Directions - out now.

By Sarah Azau

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