Germany Allocates 2% of its Land to Onshore Wind by 2032 Cabinet Approves "Onshore Wind Energy Act"

Emi Ichiyanagi, Researcher, Renewable Energy Institute

29 June 2022

in Japanese

On June 15, Germany's Cabinet approved a new "Onshore Wind Energy Act (Wind-an-Land-Gesetz)" to accelerate the expansion of onshore wind power generation facilities1. The bill defines which federal states will provide how much area in the future to achieve the goal in the coalition agreement to use 2% of the national land area for onshore wind power generation in Germany. At the same time, the "Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG)" will be amended to simplify and shorten the approval process for wind turbines. 

Germany aims to increase the share of renewables in total electricity consumption to 80% by 20302. It requires approximately 115 GW of installed onshore wind capacity in 2030, which means that the annual capacity installation will have to reach a level of 10 GW, according to the draft of the "Onshore Wind Energy Act." Its goal is to achieve 157 GW of installed capacity for onshore wind power in 2035 and 160 GW in 2040. Considering the recent energy crisis, the expansion of wind energy is essential for Germany, both for national security and to move away from fossil fuel imports.

So, how can the 2% national land use target be achieved? So far, only about 0.5% of Germany's land area is available for onshore wind turbines. Therefore, the new "Onshore Wind Energy Act" will stipulate binding "area targets," considering various conditions in each German state and fairness among them. Specifically,
・1.4% of the national land area will be available for onshore wind power by 2026 and 2% by 2032. 
・0.5% of land area in urban states (3 federal states) and 1.8 - 2.2% in other federal states (13 federal states) must be designated onshore wind zones by 20323.
・Federal states exceeding their targets can "cede" portions of their wind zones to other states to a limited extent. For this, a federal-state agreement must be submitted by June 1, 2024.

The key here is how densely to install wind power facilities. According to the BMWK (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action), each German state is allowed to designate its wind zone and its minimum distance from wind turbines. However, if the state fails to meet its binding “area targets,” its minimum distance rules in the designated wind zone will not apply. In other words, it prevents the federal states from failing to meet their “area targets” due to individual minimum distance rules. 

In contrast to the "Onshore Wind Energy Act" regarding land use regulation, the planned amendment of the "Federal Nature Conservation Act" considers the compatibility of the species protection and the expansion of onshore wind turbines. Under this amendment, landscape conservation areas will also be included when selecting locations for wind energy expansion. At the same time, protected areas for endangered species will be defined. In addition, a uniform German standard will be introduced for species protection assessments to simplify and accelerate the approval process for onshore wind turbines. And to facilitate the granting of exceptions to onshore wind power, it will be clarified that the operation of wind power facilities is of paramount public interest and serves public safety.

The bills will go through the process in the Bundestag and Bundesrat and are expected to be enacted before the summer vacation season in Germany. They are planned to enter into force in early 2023. Will Germany be able to allocate 2% of its land area to the use of onshore wind turbines by 2032, as targeted, while balancing the expansion of onshore wind energy and species protection? Let’s see how Germany will deal with these tough challenges.

*  This column is the translated version of the column originally released in Japanese on June 22, 2022.


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