German wind sector strong again in 2012
On Wednesday, the official figures for new wind turbine installations in Germany were published, and the sector grew by around 20 percent. German wind energy association BWE emphasizes how reliable the German market is year after year. If anything, Germany needs to focus on ramping up wind now that photovoltaics has caught up in terms of total installed capacity.
After a decade of struggling to reach two gigawatts of newly installed capacity per year, the German wind sector rebounded strongly in 2012, installing more than 2.4 gigawatts – only 280 megawatts of which was offshore. Germany's all-time record year was 2002, when slightly more than 3.2 gigawatts was installed – making it the largest wind market in the world at the time.
Since then, of course, other much larger markets have posted much greater figures, such as an estimated 13.2 gigawatts in the US last year just behind 14 gigawatts in China. But because tax incentives for wind power were only extended at the last minute, the US market is expected to shrink considerably, perhaps down to around five gigawatts in 2013. And of course, China remains largely dedicated to its own companies.
The BWE therefore point out how reliable core European markets are. In 2013, German engineering association VDMA expects the global market to shrink by as much as 10 percent, making Germany a bit of a safe haven.
Encouragingly, repowering continues to progress, with 1,443 megawatts of new turbines replacing 626 megawatts of old machines. Feed-in tariffs are offered for 20 years, so the first turbines that went up with such support are only now slowly becoming interesting for repowering.
The Germans now have a total installed capacity of roughly 31.3 gigawatts of wind power. In 2012, installed solar capacity left wind power behind for the first time ever, and even though the solar market is expected to shrink considerably in Germany this year, in all likelihood it will still far outstrip new wind installations.
As readers of Renewables International know, a proper balance of wind and solar power are crucial for the two to make up a greater share of any country's power supply. Going forward, Germany would be well advised to focus more on ramping up wind power at least to the level of solar now that the two are almost installed at equal rates. Doing so would mean that Germany would have to reliably install more than it did in its previous record year of 2002. (Craig Morris)