Fewer new units, but bigger average size
The German Biomass Research Center (DBFZ) expects some 500 new bioenergy units to be built in 2012, a third less than last year, but a number of these projects are actually expansions of existing ones.
In a study conducted for the German Environmental Ministry (German title: „Fortschreibung der Daten zur Stromerzeugung aus Biomasse“), the DBFZ estimates that the German biogas fleet will probably produce 3.6 terawatt-hours more electricity this year than in 2011. An additional 380 megawatts was installed. But only 269 of the 500 units added in 2012 are completely new, with the rest being expansions to existing facilities. Market growth therefore shrank to less than 20 percent of the level in 2011, a boom year in which 1,415 new units were built.
The DBFZ says that units of all sizes were added, though most of them come in between 70 and 1,000 kilowatts. The largest group running on solid biomass is smaller than 500 kilowatts. In addition to these systems, 30 biogas production facilities are expected to go into operation this year. This "bio-methane" can then be used to generate electricity and heat or as a fuel.
Electric capacity only increased by nine percent year over year, and the number of systems only grew by six percent – meaning that the average system size increased. Hendrik Becker, spokesperson for the Biogas Association's Business Council, says that this shift is an attempt to make the German market somewhat profitable. Two weeks ago, Josef Pellmeyer, president of the Biogas Association, stated at the Eurotier tradeshow in Hanover that "the current industry trend is very sobering" when he presented his organization's latest industry figures. Pellmeyer says the market has collapsed for a number of reasons, including rising prices for substrate material and the discussion about the conflict with food crops. (Melanie Vogelpohl / Craig Morris)