Observations on Bürgerbeteiligung–German Share Cooperatives–by Henning Holst

By Paul Gipe


I first met Henning Holst in the late 1980s or early 1990s when he was developing citizen-owned wind projects in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s northernmost länder. Holst’s office was then, and is still located in Husum, the center of the German wind universe and the site of the biennial wind extravaganza, the Husum Messe.

Since reconnecting with Henning, I’ve had the good fortune to hear him speak several times on the role of community-owned wind energy in Germany. Here are some bits and pieces I’ve picked up from his presentations.


On Fehmarn Repowering

Henning’s major project is repowering a portion of the wind plants on the island of Fehmarn. There are 150 families on the island and there has been no opposition to the repowering.

There are 46 MW in operation now (2005) and they expect to have 136 MW operating in the near future.

The existing connection of 46 MW will be maintained. The additional generation will be added to 31 km, 110 KV subsea cable, requiring the creation of a separate grid company.

Henning’s project is repowering one of the wind farms on the island, and the new interconnection. He estimates the project will cost 124 million Euros. Who said community-owned projects have to be small.



The Bundesverband WindEnergie or BWE is often translated as the German Wind Energy Association. This doesn’t quite convey the meaning and role of the German association. It may be more correctly titled the German Wind Turbine Owner’s Association.

With 2,048 members, BWE is Germany’s principal wind energy advocacy association. BWE members represent about 6,200 MW or some one-third of all German wind generating capacity. Membership is determined by the number and size of the turbines registered. Altogether BWE represents 13,500 shareholders.

In the Bürger Windpark movement, says Holst, the citizens (Bürgers) provide the equity in a limited liability company. Typically, the developers raises as much equity from the local community as possible, then expands their net to the region, and then if there’s still not enough capital to build the project, they open investment up to the entire country.


On Enercon

Enercon is Germany’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines. Considered the “Mercedes Benz” of wind turbines, it is frequently the choice of farmers and Bürgerbeteiligungs.

While 45% of Enercon sales are to traditional planning and investment companies, 37% are to Bürger wind projects, and another 14% to farmers and individual owners. Thus, more than half of Enercon sales in Germany are to small, locally owned projects.

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