There’s still a lot of room for improvement: The renewable energy sector in North Rhine-Westphalia is urging for more speed in the expansion of wind power. The construction of a wind turbine usually takes seven years, reported the NRW Renewable Energy Association (LEE) in Düsseldorf on Tuesday. The construction of the LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven took just 194 days, it said. “This must now urgently become the benchmark for wind energy expansion as well. Everything is going much too slowly,” said LEE managing director Christian Mildenberger.

According to preliminary figures, 98 new wind turbines were commissioned in NRW last year, more than in the previous two years, according to LEE. A total of 3626 turbines were in operation at the end of the year. At the same time, older turbines were dismantled. The bottom line is that the installed wind power capacity in NRW increased by 392 megawatts to 6730 megawatts. According to the Fachagentur Windenergie an Land, 92 new turbines were commissioned in NRW in 2020. In 2021, there were 83 new turbines. The bottom line is that 281 megawatts of capacity were added in 2020 and 296 megawatts in 2021.

Wind energy industry must step on the gas

For the wind power industry, the net increase in 2022 is not enough, despite the increase: if the black-green state government wants to achieve its own climate protection and renewable energy expansion goals, 1,000 megawatts must be added annually, Mildenberger said.

Project manager Steffen Lackmann of the company Westfalenwind spoke of an “enormous” demand from local industry for low-cost wind power. Industrial and commercial companies were calling almost weekly, he said, wanting to buy power from the company’s wind farms. “For these companies, energy prices have now become a key location factor.”

The opposition in the state parliament also called for more speed: The LEE figures prove that the state government is “far too slow” in expanding wind power, said André Stinka, economic policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group. The government wanted to build an average of 200 turbines per year. It has already clearly missed this target in 2022. “One thing is certain: even now, Black-Green is falling short of its own ambition.” Dietmar Brockes of the FDP parliamentary group said, “The expansion of the energy supply can only succeed if we finally simplify the cumbersome planning and approval procedures.”

Acceleration of wind power expansion necessary

The energy policy spokespersons of the governing parties countered in a joint statement. The coalition was clear: “To achieve our ambitious goal of 1,000 new wind turbines within five years, we have to stretch further,” said Christian Untrieser of the CDU faction. He added that the coalition had introduced a comprehensive package to accelerate the expansion of wind power in the state parliament in the same year as the state elections.

Michael Röls of the Green Party said, “We see the problem of lengthy planning and are tackling it: We’re breaking down barriers and obstacles, speeding up procedures and simplifying rules.” He said a newly created wind energy task force in the state’s energy ministry is working under high pressure to speed up planning and approval procedures.