The practice of Approval is a critical factor in the expanding and processing of small wind turbines. In Germany, there is no conformity regulating the approval of small wind turbines at federal level. Such a procedure is subject to state building regulations, which differ between federal states. For example, small wind turbines above 10 meters must be approved in all federal states and exceptions apply only in some federal states for plants up to 10m.
Generally the permit situation for the construction of a small wind turbine in residential areas is likely more difficult than in industrial estates, mixed areas or in rural areas. Especially in congested areas, vertical wind turbines generally have better chances of success in obtaining a building permit than horizontal wind turbines (eg sound, optics, etc).
It is recommended arranging an interview with the respective building supervisory authority (Landratsamt) to seek clarification on the requirements of such an application and its implications before commencing with costly, time-consuming planning. This is especially true regarding the preservation of public interests:
- Environmental influences, public nuisances (noise limits, shadow strike)
- Nature conservation, species protection, soil protection
- Impairment of the landscape
- Impairment of the functionality of radar / radio equipment
The legal condition for the approval of small wind turbines in individual federal states is constantly changing and adapting. The influence of political control over wind power expansion and the framework conditions for small wind turbines, might see an adjustment in the medium term. In summary, it depends heavily on the people dealing with wind turbines on the ground. If the competent authority possess experience in the region, the approval of another plant becomes easier.
Cost of a Small Wind Turbine
Since the investment and operating costs of a small wind turbine compared to PV systems are relatively high, the economic operation of a preferred location should be clarified. Depending on the location and size of the plant, small wind turbines have electricity production costs between 15 and 30 ct / kWh.
For the investment costs the following points must be considered:
- Consulting, planning, project planning and approval incl. Reports (eg statics, emissions, protection of species)
- Wind measurement (fee for measuring instruments, working hours)
- Acquisition and construction costs for the wind turbine (including mast, foundation, inverter, control)
- Site location (cabling, mains connection)
In addition to the investment costs, the following can incur during operation:
- Maintenance and repair cost
- Insurance costs
- Interest on equity or debt
Market Prospects of Small Wind Turbines
Small wind turbines are still new in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The report of the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA), states that around 74,000 small wind turbines were world-wide installed during 2011, an increase of 11% compared to the previous year. The total sum of small windmills installed increased by 730,000 units. In Germany, the number of previously installed KWE plants is between 10,000 and 15,000, the current data only allows for an estimate. The market analyses by the Federal Ministry of Economics foresee a demand in small wind turbines (KWEA) and in Germany an estimate of 10,000 units / year, along with a strong upward trend.
State support measures for small wind turbines are currently unavailable. In Germany, electricity feed into the public grid from wind turbines is currently remunerated at 9 cents per kWh. The feed-in is not worthwhile due to the non-cost-covering feed-in tariffs in Germany. By contrast, in countries such as Italy or Great Britain, the feed-in tariffs for small wind turbines are much higher. Instead, profitability can only be achieved through the self-consumption of the wind power produced. If this is cheaper than the electricity price of the energy supplier, you save electricity costs. Due to rising electricity prices, however, the profitability of small wind turbines will improve continuously in upcoming years. The more wind power you use, the more economical your own small wind turbine will become. With adequate site conditions in place, small wind turbines can economically operate in Germany today.
At various locations, the amortisation of a small wind turbine is moderate, especially for private consumers. With a lower power consumption (four-person household: 4,000 – 5,500 kWh) and lower installation of their facilities in populated areas with lower incomes. For farmers with high electricity consumption and a system in a most favourable position, however, the profitability of their small wind turbine is reached much faster.
In comparison to solar power systems, small wind turbines are currently still a niche-existence in Germany. An adjustment of state support and it’s framework – as experienced with photovoltaic systems a few years ago – would lead to an increased demand. The photovoltaic boom in Germany can be seen as a prime example of the successful expanding of energy technology.
The market for small wind turbines will continue evolving in the upcoming years. Firstly, self-produced electricity from wind power is becoming more and more economical due to increasing electricity rates. And secondly, the technology of small wind turbines continues to evolve and will be readily available for the market. By increasing efficiency, it is also possible to operate plants in locations that today still disallow cost-effectiveness.