Community Powered Wind Projects
Husum, a town of about 20,000 in the far northwestern corner of Germany, is the world capital of wind!
On Monday we had the chance to receive greetings from the major of Husum, who just a few years prior entertained Iowa’s Governor, Chester Culver when he visited the town to learn about innovations in wind. Following the mayor’s greetings, we received a presentation on community wind projects from Henning Holst who has been working in the wind industry for 18 years, during which time he has worked on 30 large projects that include 164 wind turbines which produce 165.4 megawatts of electricity.
Husum used to be the hub of the ship building industry, but when that industry began to decline, the town looked to wind power as the solution and has thrived ever since. Vestes opened a branch office in Husum in the late 1980’s and Repower came to town just a few years later and merged with the old ship company.
In 1990 Germany passed a feed-in tariff law, which is part of the reason that small-scale renewable energy projects are more feasible in Germany than they are in the United States. This law has allowed communities to play a large role in the development of Germany’s wind energy. In 1991 the province where Husum is located had the goal to produce 1200 megawatts of wind energy by the year 2010. As of the end of 2010, the province had met and exceeded the expectations set out 20 years prior. The area near Husum produces 2600 megawatts of energy and the expectation is that another 3000 megawatts will be installed in the very near future.
Community wind projects have been very popular near Husum and can take a few different forms, including these:
- Project is 100% community initiated, planned and owned
- Community initiated, planned, controlled and partially owned
- Project initiated externally but community members are shareholders and see the benefits of the project.
There are a few risks involved in such projects, such as:
- A community can invest lots of money, but don’t end up getting consent from the planning commission.
- Grid access turns out to be too costly
One example of a project that took a risk is the Butendiek Project that we heard about from Hans and Wolfgang yesterday at the hostel. That project was initiated with a lot of optimism, but there turned out to be a steep learning curve with the finance and insurance of offshore wind energy.
Risks will always exist, but they can be minimized through such means as engaging a network of supportive people, learning from comparable projects and seeking out technical support.
As we heard from Hans and Wolfgang yesterday, Henning Holst talked at length about the benefits of local verses outside ownership of wind projects.
- Local involvement and control always increases support of the project
- Engaged communities have a higher quality of knowledge about the benefits and risks.
- There is an economic multiplier involved with local projects
- When there is buy-in from the community, it is much easier to upgrade the machines in the future when better technology comes online.
Wind technology is becoming more advanced all the time. Henning told us he was involved with a wind project on the island of Fehman this year and by “repowering” wind farms, the island was able to more than triple production.
After our talk with Henning Holst we were fortunate to have the opportunity to tour Repower, one of the large wind turbine manufacturers in the world. We got to see the whole process of making a 2 megawatt wind turbine!
The company also makes offshore turbines that range from 5-6 megawatts, but those are made at a different manufacturing plant in the south of Germany.
Many of us were fascinated by watching a worker apply decals to the side of the turbine and are wondering about the possibility of applying a Norse head to the side of the Luther turbine that will be erected this spring…. ;)