Wind Energy on Land has an Essential Role to Play in Germany’s Energiewende

By Paul Gipe

Renewable energy, and particularly wind energy, have come of age as commercial generating technologies. They are no longer “alternative” sources of energy.

Wind turbines can now be found in every corner of the globe from Finisterre, (literally the “end of the earth”) in Galicia to the wind-swept steppes of Mongolia.

During the past three decades nearly one-quarter million megawatts of wind generating capacity have been installed worldwide. In 2011 these wind turbines generated nearly 450 billion kilowatt-hours (450 TWh) of electricity.

Experts have long theorized that the combination of variable renewables resources, such as wind and solar energy, could work better together than either separately. Now–after decades of development-we have the data to prove it.

Data from Germany has proven, once and for all, that the massive development of wind and solar energy together smoothes the daily and weekly fluctuations of each resource. Together, they are far less “intermittent” than once thought.

Wind and solar work even better with biogas and geothermal. This is why “renewable energy policy” is so much more important than simply a “solar policy” or a “wind policy”.

And we’re beginning to learn what may be the best combination of wind and solar.

For countries such as Germany, where more electricity is used in the winter than at any other time, we will need more wind than solar energy.

What this means in practice is that Germany needs to increase the rate of wind energy development, especially on land, rather than trying to slow or-worse–stop solar development.

Germany has been and should remain one of the world’s largest markets for solar energy. It has come too far now to go back.

However, both the current rate of wind development and the 2020 targets for wind energy are insufficient to meet Germany’s ambitious goals for the Energiewende.

Current German policy places an over-reliance on offshore wind. Offshore wind is twice as expensive as onshore wind and also requires the costly and time-consuming construction of major new power lines.

To keep the costs of the “energy revolution” to consumers as low as possible, Germany must rebalance its planned mix of wind energy-both offshore and onshore-and solar energy.

More wind on land is needed-and it is needed now. Thus the growth rate of wind on land must quicken. To do so will require widespread public support.

Any farmer will tell you that the number one rule of increasing public acceptance of wind energy on land is “Your own pigs don’t stink”.

German citizens now directly own more renewable energy than any other people on the planet. More than 50% of German renewables are owned by its own citizens. This is one of the driving forces behind German success with renewable energy: Germans want renewable energy and they’re willing to invest in it.

To rapidly increase the growth of wind energy on land, Germany must do even more to encourage its own people to participate in the renewable energy revolution. Only with growing participation will Germans accept the increasing role of wind and solar energy on the landscape.

Germany, long a cultural influence on the world stage, is perhaps now making its greatest contribution to humanity: It has become the model of renewable energy development worldwide.

Not only is Germany exporting its renewable energy policy, the EEG, it is also exporting revolution-the energy revolution.

This revolution is being led by Germany’s Jeffersonian rebels whose “can do” attitude” and demand that they have the right to democratically develop their “own” renewable resources will serve as model for the rest of the world.

In the not-too-distant-future, Germany will be remembered not for exporting automobiles, or machine tools, but for exporting the energy revolution-the profoundly liberating idea that an industrial nation can-and should-move towards 100% renewable energy.


Paul Gipe is an author, lecturer, and advocate of renewable energy. For more than three decades he has written about renewable energy for both the popular and trade press. He has also lectured widely on wind energy and how to minimize its impact on the environment and the communities of which it is a part. Gipe has been often been described as a “pioneer” of renewable energy for his work.