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High Renewable Energy Costs Damage the German Economy

Willem Post's picture
President, Willem Post Energy Consuling

Willem Post, BSME'63 New Jersey Institute of Technology, MSME'66 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MBA'75, University of Connecticut. P.E. Connecticut. Consulting Engineer and Project Manager....

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  • Feb 13, 2014

German renewables and costs

In September 2010, the German government announced a new energy policy with the target of increasing the relative share of renewable energy in gross electrical generation to 35% by 2020, 50% by 2030, 65% by 2040, and 80% by 2050. Germany has been increasing its renewable energy generation from 6.6% (mostly existing hydro) in 2000, when the EEG law took effect, to 23.4% of total generation, at the end of 2013. If current RE growth continues, Germany likely will meet the 2020 target.

Energy Generation in Germany: At the end of 2013, German energy sources were 25.6% lignite coal, 15.4% nuclear, 19.6% hard coal, 10.5% natural gas, 1.0% mineral oil, 4..0% Other, for a total of 76.1% from non-RE sources, plus 8.4% wind, 3.2% hydro, 6.7% biomass, 4.7% PV solar, 0.8% Municipal waste, for a total of 23.9% from RE sources.

For the years 2008 – 2013:


Total generation, GWh…….640,700…595,600…633,000…613,100…629,800…633,600 

Total RE, GWh……………….93,200…..94,900…104,800…123,800…143,500…151,700 

Total EEG RE, GWh………. 71,148…..75,377…..82,332…103,136…118,330…132,400 

EEG fraction, %……………….76.3………79.4…….78.6…….83.3………82.5…….87.3 

Coal Generation in Germany: The below data show German coal generation is increasing, and will continue to increase for the next 10 – 20 years, as near-CO2-free nuclear plants are decommissioned and replaced with additional RE and new coal plants. Late-vintage, modern, coal-fired plants are more efficient, have less CO2 emissions, gram/kWh, than older plants near retirement.

Here is the coal generation, TWh, for the years 1991 and 2008 – 2013:




Total coal………..308.1……299.4……253.5……262.9…..262.5…..277.1……286.0

Coal fraction, %……………..43.0……..42.6…….41.5…….42.8……44.0……..45.2 

The energy of nuclear plants is being replaced with energy from coal plants and renewables.

CO2 Emissions in Germany, million metric ton, for the years 2010 – 2014:

Based on the data in the below table, it will not be possible for Germany to have emissions of 749 million metric ton, i.e., 40% below the Kyoto 1990 emissions of 1,249 million metric ton.

Germany’s Kyoto 1990 emissions are high, because East Germany is included. By retiring East Germany’s old, inefficient coal plants, and replacing them with new ones, Germany has been able to brag about its large reductions of CO2 emissions. See figure 12 of below URL of Agora report.

The targets of 2030 and 2050 would require shutting down most coal plants, which likely would not happen, as the newly-built, flexible ones are needed for balancing the variable, intermittent wind and solar energy, and to provide capacity adequacy. See below sections.

Increased coal use occurred in 2012 and 2013. This will be ongoing for many years, as new coal plants are brought on line and nuclear plants are decommissioned. 2010 was a colder year, requiring increased fossil fuel for heating; 2014 was a warmer year.



Below Kyoto1990, %………..25.6…….24.7……23.8…..27.0……40………55……80-95

Dim Physical Prospects for Cost-Efficient RE in Germany: Heavily-industrialized Germany is building its ENERGIEWENDE on mediocre wind and mediocre solar, with biomass not scaling up! In 2012, Germany’s onshore wind capacity factor was 0.192, and PV solar CF was 0.095; NIMBY will prevent future significant build-outs of onshore wind turbines, and offshore wind turbine energy cost is at least 2 times onshore.

Because of a lack of cropland, biomass could at most produce about 10%, versus 6.8% in 2013, and because of a lack of suitable geography, hydro could at most produce about 5%, versus 3.4% in 2013. Yet Germany is charging ahead anyway, but uneasiness about the ENERGIEWENDE feasibility and cost is finally beginning to creep into the minds of more and more policymakers.

Adding Renewable Energy Increasingly More Costly: Renewable energy production covered by the EEG law increased from 71,148 in 2008 to 132,400 GWh in 2013, an 86% increase, and the EEG surcharge on household electric bills increased from 1.1 in 2008 to 5.227 eurocent/kWh in 2013, a 375% increase, i.e., as each GWh of RE is added, it costs more to produce and integrate it into the energy system, akin to climbing a mountain, initially, it is easy going, but further along, it becomes harder and harder, as its gets colder and the air gets thinner.

The EEG surcharge increase took place despite improved efficiencies and lower costs/MW of RE technologies, and some reductions of the excessive PV solar feed-in tariffs.

RE Costs Adversely Impacts Household Electric Rates: The average annual electric bill of a 3-person German household was 598.80 euro in 1998, with an annual energy surcharge of 2.80 euro, increased to 1005.60 euro, with an annual EEG surcharge of 184.70 euro, likely to increase to 220 euro in 2014.

EEG surcharges were 0.8, 1.0, 1.1, 1.3, 2.05, 3.53, 3.592, 5.227, 6.24 eurocent/kWh, excl. 16% VAT, from 2006 to 2014, with annual increases of 1.0 – 1.5 eurocent/kWh to follow, a politically untenable situation.

German household electric rates increased in about a straight line from 13.94 in April 2000 (start of EEG law), to 21.65 in April 2008, to 28.73 eurocent/kWh in April 2013.

German household electric rates, 29.65 eurocent/kWh in December 2013, were the 2nd highest in Europe, after Denmark’s 30.45 eurocent/kWh. France, 80% nuclear, was at 15.48 eurocent/kWh. See URL for breakdown of electric bill charges per kWh.

Total household cost…………………………………..29.650

– VAT……………………………………………………4.744…………………16% of Total

– EEG surcharge………………………………………5.227

– Other taxes and levies…………………………….4.772*

VAT, EEG, Other………………………………………….14.743……..49.72% of Total

Utility energy……………………………………………5.5

Utility service, distribution…………………………..1.407

Utility operations……………………………………….8.0

Utility Energy, Service, Operations…………………14.907……..50.28% of Total

* Includes: Energy tax; Offshore hafnungsumlage; Parapraph 19 umlage; KWK aufschlag; Konzessions ausgabe.$file/150409%20BDEW%20zum%20Strompreis%20der%20Haushalte%20Anhang.pdf

Regarding the above 5.5 eurocent/kWh, this URL, figure 10, shows wholesale prices of about 5.5 eurocent/kWh for all of Europe in 2010, 2011, 2012 and half of 2013.


Using utility wholesale prices of about 5.5 eurocent/kWh at a basis, the EEG surcharge calculates to 5,227/5.5 = 95% of energy in 2013, and 6.24/5.5 = 113% of energy in 2014.

RE Capacity, Production, Capital Cost Summary, 2000 – 2014 period

Below is a summary of RE systems capacity, production and capital cost for the 2000 – 2014 period. The values for end 1999 are used as a starting point and shown below. The values of each year thereafter were obtained from published sources, and summed. The summed values at end 2013 are shown below. The values for 2014 are estimated and shown below.

End 1999………..Wind, onshore…..Wind, offshore…..Biomass…..Solar………Total

Capacity, MW…….4,435……………….0………………..250………….70

RE, GWh…………..5,528……………….0……………..1,200………….42………..6,770

Cap. Cost, b euro…8.87………………..0……………….0.75…………0.6……….10.22

End 2013

Capacity, MW……..34.250……………520……………..7,150………35,692

Energy, GWh………53,400……………722…………….42,600……..30,000……126,722

Cap. Cost, b euro…..68.50……………2.13…………….21.29……..107.37…….199.30

During 2014

Capacity, MW……..2,500………………100……………….100……….2,750

Energy, GWh………4,161………………394……………….613……….2,409………7,643

Cap. Cost, b euro…..5.0……………….0.42………………0.25………..5.5……….11.17

ADDITIONAL capital cost = (199.30 – 10.22) + 11.17 in 2014 = 200.2 b euro.

ADDITIONAL RE = (126,722 – 6,770) + 7,643 in 2014 = 127,595 GWh, or 20.14% of total generation.

Total RE end 2014 = 151,700, end 2013 + 7,643 in 2014 = 159,343 GWh, or 25.15% of total generation.

The 200.2 b euro does not include the capital costs of additional balancing capacity build-outs, MW, and grid build-outs, estimated at about 40 b euro, which Germany should have made, but largely did not. As a result, Germany has to frequently use the grids of nearby nations to balance its variable wind and solar energy.

The total EEG surcharge on electric bills was about 111.6 b euro, for the 2000 – 2014 period. About 1.5 million ratepayers (households, etc.), with PV systems, avoided buying some of their electricity from the grid, but the other 30 million households, without PV systems, mostly less well off, bore the full brunt of the surcharge.

Note the growth of biomass energy:

NOTE: Nuclear energy would have been a more rational alternative for the added generation:

Nuclear production: 16,184 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.9 = 127,595 GWh, at a capital cost of about 80.92 b euro (at $5000/kW for standard plants); no balancing capacity and grid build-outs would be required. Nuclear plants last for about 60 years, whereas, RE systems last only 20 – 30 years. Also, standard nuclear plants would produce energy at about half the cost of RE systems.

High Renewable Energy Costs: It is useful to look at the RE costs of Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE. For the years 2008 – 2013:


EEG generation, GWh…….71,148….75,377…..82,332…103,136…118,330…132,400

EEG payments, b euro………9.0………10.8…….13.2……16.8………21.1…….22.9 

EEG cost, euro/kWh……….0.1265….0.1433…..0.1603…0.1629….0.1783….0.1730 

EEG subsidies, b euro……….0.0……….0.0………0.0……..1.1……….1.0………4.2 

EEG total, b euro…………….9.0………10.8…….13.2…….17.9……..22.1…….27.1 

EEG cost, euro/kWh……….0.1265….0.1433…..0.1603…0.1736….0.1868….0.2047 

EEG revenues, b euro……….4.3……….5.5………3.8……..4.7……….5.1……..6.7

EEG price, euro/kWh………0.0604….0.0730…..0.0462…0.0562….0.0431….0.0506

Sold at about 0.0506/0.2047 = 1/4 of the cost in 2013.

EEG surcharges, b euro…….4.7……….5.3………9.4………13.2…….17.0…….20.4

Estimated at 23.6 b euro in 2014

Renewable Energy Sold at a Loss: In Germany, the normal procedure is to use materials and labor to make a product and sell it at a profit. It is just the opposite with RE, where the normal procedure is to use materials and labor to make a product that is sold at 1/4 of the cost, i.e., at a loss which is made up by placing a surcharge on household electric bills. This is completely uneconomic and irrational.

People think the Germans are so smart, but selling 2013 RE at 1/4 of the cost is unwise, AND it is unsustainable, because, as RE increases in future years, the cost/kWh increases, and the fraction at which the RE can be sold decreases. When standing in a deep pit, it is wise to stop digging.

High RE Costs Damage German Economy: Germany’s exports would have been 15 b euro higher in 2013, if its industry had not paid a premium for electricity compared with international competitors, according to an analysis published on Thursday. Germany’s manufacturing suffered 52 b euro in net export losses for the six-year period from 2008 to 2013, per the Financial Times of 27 February, 2014.

Managing Renewable Energy on the Grid: Without variable RE, Germany has the most reliable grid in the world. If, instead of exporting energy to nearby nations during windy and sunny periods, Germany had to keep its variable wind and solar energy within its borders, there would be chaos, as Germany has failed to make the investments in grid infrastructure, tens of billions of euros, to match its rapid RE build-outs.

The northern German grid has limited ability to deal with variable energy. Because traditional generators dominate the grid, frequency and voltage are maintained within required ranges for stability, even with some variable energy on the grid. But during periods of low demand with windiness, usually at night, the variable wind energy is excessive and is either curtailed (wind turbine owners object), or spread out to other grids (at very low prices), such as of The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, etc., to maintain stability, i.e., exported at a loss!

The southern German grid also has limited ability to deal with variable energy. Because traditional generators dominate the grid, frequency and voltage are maintained within required ranges for stability, even with some variable energy on the grid. But during periods of clear skies, the variable solar energy is excessive (cannot be curtailed, except by grounding some of it) and is spread out to other grids (at very low prices), such as of Austria, The Czech Republic, France, etc., to maintain stability, i.e., exported at a loss!

RE promoters crowing about Germany being able to export energy while closing down nuclear plants, or about Germany generating 50% of its energy with RE on a particular hour of a day, or Germany’s RE reducing wholesale energy costs, are mentioning the parts of the picture favorable to their cause, but leave out the other parts, i.e.,  misrepresenting reality, to say the least.

A third way could exist if Germany had a north-south, HVDC, overlay grid, but that would cost at least 50 to 75 billion euro, if buried, and would take about 5 – 10 years to place in service. Building it overhead would be less costly, more visible, but would be delayed by much NIMBY. The HVDC grid would be connected to the existing high voltage grids at many points to spread out the variable energy all over Germany, i.e., less need to rely on money-losing exports for balancing.

Germany Using Foreign Grids For RE Balancing: As above noted, Germany, not having sufficient domestic RE balancing capacity, MW, uses the spare balancing capacity of the grids of nearby nations to balance its excessive energy during high RE production periods. These nations provide these services, because the surplus energy is received at a very low cost/kWh, usually much lower than they could produce it with their own generators. Also these nations have not much use for their spare balancing capacity, as their RE build-outs proceeded at a much slower pace than Germany’s. This mode of operation cannot be long-term, as these nations ultimately will have greater RE production, and greater need of their own balancing capacity, i.e., Germany will have to make additional investments in balancing capacity.

Balancing the energy is part of the problem. The other part is adequate import and export transmission capacity. At present, Germany has about 12,597.85 MW of import and export capacity with neighboring countries. As future RE generation increases on sunny, windy days, this transmission capacity may be exceeded and RE production curtailment will be required.

Denmark Using Foreign Grids For RE Balancing: For more than 35 years, Denmark has used the grids of Sweden and Norway, each with significant hydro-plant capacity, MW, for balancing its excessive energy during high wind energy periods.

As Denmark aims to increase its wind energy from just over 30% of its total generation in 2012 to 50% in 2020, mostly from offshore, Denmark will become an energy exporter during almost all hours of the year, but the wholesale export prices are about 0.25 DKK/kWh x 13 eurocent/DKK = 3.25 eurocent/kWh, whereas offshore wind energy costs about 1.05 DKK x 13 eurocent/DKK = 13.65 eurocent/kWh, 4.2 times greater. Danish climate and energy minister Petersen has threatened to cancel 1,000 MW of offshore wind turbine plants, unless their energy prices are lowered.

The difference in price is via the green electricity tax, the PSO levy, to the tune of 1.3 billion DKK/yr, mostly paid by Danish households, instead of industry, as not to impair industrial competitiveness. How going to 50% wind energy is a wealth generator for Denmark remains a mystery.

At present, the hydro plants of Norway and Sweden act as a balancing and storage utility for Denmark. The more wind energy Denmark generates, the more it needs that “battery”. Denmark pays for this by delivering energy at low grid prices and absorbing it at high grid prices. The exact $ amount appears to be a state secret; it has been estimated at well over 1 b euro some years ago. As much of the additional Danish wind energy will be offshore, that 1 billion likely will double or triple. Danish households already have the highest electric rates in Europe; 30.45 eurocent/kWh in December 2013.

In 2002, Denmark had so little winds that during 54 days no wind energy was produced, but the wind turbines were consuming energy, a.k.a., parasitic energy, just the same. There likely was an additional 50 or so days with minimal energy production.

Luckily, Denmark’s OTHER coal, gas, nuclear, generators, and the hydro plants of Norway and Sweden provided the shortfall, but with Denmark’s current annual wind energy percent on the grid, this would be a significantly greater effort.

Whereas, weather systems tend to cover large geographical areas, at that time, the lack of wind energy generation was noticed mostly in Denmark, as other nations had much fewer wind turbines, which would not be the case at present and going forward. Something for many nations to think about for planning purposes.

Spain Using Its Own Grid For RE Balancing: Spain, with an “island” grid with weak connections to nearby nations, uses gas-fired OCGTs and CCGTs, and pumped storage hydro plants to balance its RE. Spain has a feed-in tariff regime similar to Germany, but, instead of surcharges on household electric bills, the net feed-in tariff costs were added to the national debt, causing the people to think RE as having no cost!!

This grand deception, approved with much crowing by RE aficionados, to promote Spanish-style RE build-outs, added to other economic mismanagements/deceptions, ultimately caused an unemployment rate of 25% for workers aged 25 and over, and 50% for workers under 25. As Europe is in near-zero population and near-zero economic growth, it will be decades before Spain will have an overall unemployment rate of 8%, the same as in June 2007.

Balancing Adequacy, Capacity Adequacy and Grid Adequacy Costs due to RE on the Grid: The above EEG surcharges do not cover any costs and energy losses, with attendant CO2 emissions, for:

– Balancing, the variable energy by the OTHER generators (increased start/stop operation, increased 3,600 rpm spinning operation, increased part-load-ramping operation), and having an increasing capacity, MW, of generators for balancing.

– Providing “capacity adequacy”, i.e., having sufficient capacity of a suitable mix of generators, staffed, fueled, maintained in ready-to-serve status, during ALL hours of the year, especially during the 65% of the hours of the year PV solar energy is minimal, and during the 30% of the hours of the year wind energy is minimal.

– Grid expansion to connect distributed wind turbine plants to the grid, reinforce the grid to distribute the energy, and maintain the required stability. The grid capital cost ranges from about 15% to 30% of the installed capital cost of the wind turbines, depending on the condition of the existing grid, extend of grid modifications, and the distance of the wind turbines from population centers. See URL for cost examples.

These costs have led to the OTHER generators, utilities and grid owners experiencing reduced profits and operating losses. When RE was insignificant, those losses were minor and absorbed, but as RE increases those losses increase and cannot be absorbed without consequences, i.e., providing them with proper compensation.

Whereas, claims are made by RE promoters regarding RE reducing grid prices, they cannot be backed up or refuted. Heavily-subsidized RE, with priority access to the grid, may artificially depress costs in one area, such as grid prices, but increase costs in other areas that are not obvious and not traced.

The extra costs to grid owners and generator owners to deal with RE are spread out over the entire German energy system and are difficult to trace, as historic accounting systems are not set up for that purpose. A whole new system of identifying, measuring and recording of costs will be required for proper cost accounting and subsequent compensation.

NOTE: Wind turbine energy to the grid = Production – Parasitic energy. At low rotor RPM, the parasitic energy may become greater than the production, and energy is drawn from the grid for wind turbine electrical requirements. In areas with low CFs, as in Germany, the parasitic energy is a significant part of production. See URL.

NOTE: Economically-viable, utility-scale, energy storage would enable storing energy for later use, as with pumped hydro, but such storage has not been invented and would take 10 – 20 years to deploy AFTER its invention.

Japan, which imports almost all of its energy, has installed much solar capacity, MW, but its grid cannot balance the energy. As a result, the government will spend $204 million on the world’s largest battery bank to stabilize the flow of solar energy. This is the first battery bank of this size to be installed at a utility substation. Capable of storing 60 MWh of energy, it will be operational by early 2015. The battery operating range will be about 20 – 90% of battery capacity, i.e., the usable storage is 42 MWh of energy, to ensure lives of at least 7 years. The battery DC inflows of solar energy will be variable, the AC energy outflows will be controlled within grid required standards. A to Z system losses will be about 15 – 20%. It will be located on the island of Hokkaido where inexpensive land is attracting many solar projects.

CO2 Emissions and the EEG Program: Germany’s annual CO2 emissions will be INCREASING as more near-CO2-free, nuclear plants are decommissioned and replaced with CO2-emitting, coal-fired plants, during the next 10 – 20 years, even though RE, as a percent of total generation, would increase, which would further increase the above-mentioned losses, and require higher EEG surcharges on household electric bills. When standing in a deep pit, it is wise to stop digging.

I, and many others, have been writing about this for some years, and it seems to have finally sunk in at the highest level.


Revising EEG Mandates and Targets: The newly-formed German coalition government wants to revise the share of RE in the German energy generation mix to be 40% to 45% by 2025, instead of the current 50% by 2030, and to be 55% to 60% by 2035, instead of current 65% by 2040, to increase flexibility. The new German Economics and Energy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, stated green energy mandates have become such an albatross around the neck of industry that they could lead to a “deindustrialization” of Germany.

Revising EU Framework on Climate and Energy: On 22 January 2014, as part of the new EU framework on climate and energy, the European Commission proposed a 40% reduction target (not a mandate) for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below the 1990 (Kyoto) level, from all sources, not just energy generation, by 2030.

The European Council will discuss the proposal during the next 12 months. If approved (which may not happen), it will be offered as a conditional pledge during the international negotiations on climate change in Paris in 2015.

EEG Program Not Cost-Efficient and Ineffective: While the German coalition government is in the process of revising the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), the Commission of Experts on Research and Innovation (Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation – EFI), recommends abolishing the EEG program.

The EFI claims, the EEG program was neither a cost-efficient climate protection tool, nor did it have a positive effect on innovation. The study team presented its 2014 annual report, in German, to Chancellor Merkel on 26 February, 2014. The English version will be issued in June 2014.

Revising the EEG Program: If by 2025, Germany had 40% to 45% of electrical energy from RE, the EEG surcharge, based on its historic progression, would likely be about 24 eurocent/kWh, or about 24/5.5 = 4.4 times utility energy cost, based on current feed-in tariff schedules, and current capacity expansion plans.

However, to contain excessive costs, the German coalition government is revising the EEG program by introducing capacity expansion caps/corridors, and cuts in financial support for onshore wind energy, offshore wind energy, solar energy and biomass energy. See URLs. 

Reducing Feed-in Tariffs and RE Build-outs: To limit the damage of RE build-outs to German’s heavy industries, traditional utilities, and other businesses, Germany’s government is planning to reduce EEG feed-in tariffs, effective at the start of 2015, from a weighted average of 0.1730 euro/kWh in 2013, to a weighted average of 0.12 euro/kWh in 2015.

This reduction will apply only to NEW RE systems under the EEG law, i.e., future INCREASES in EEG surcharges on electric bills may be only SLIGHTLY less than they would have been, because EEG payments to generators, etc.:

– Will be decreasing for systems prior to start of 2015, per existing feed-in tariff schedules.

– Will be increasing for systems built in 2015 and after, per new feed-in tariff schedules. 

EEG surcharges on electric bills, 23.6 b euro (est.) at about 25.14% RE in 2014, up from 23.94% at end 2013, will continue to increase as more RE is added by 2030, taking into account the proposed decreased feed-in tariffs at start of 2015.

Also, future build-outs, MW, of solar, wind, etc., will be constrained within MW corridors, with the feed-in tariffs adjusted to stay within the corridors.

This is not a trivial reduction, as it will significantly slow the build-out of RE systems all over Germany, including offshore wind turbines plants. How that will enable Germany to meet its 2030 CO2 targets is a technical mystery, especially with additional coal plants coming on line, and nuclear plants retiring.

RE businesses and organizations will be howling, as if THE world is coming to an end, whereas, in fact, it is just a part of THEIR world, but there was a sigh of relief from other households and businesses, as sanity is starting to prevail after all.

NOTE: The only quick way for easing the burden on households is to eliminate the 16% VAT on electric bills.


If the above proposed weighted average feed-in tariff of 0.12 euro/kWh were implemented at the start of 2015, an estimate of the EEG surcharge on household electric bills could be calculated as follows:

Estimated EEG Surcharge: German total generation was 633,600 GWh at end 2013. Assume it remains unchanged during the 2015 – 2030 period.

Germany’s target is 50% RE by 2030 = 316,800 GWh, of which 151,700 GWh was already in place at end 2013. With 159,343 GWh at end 2014 (see below), about 157,457 GWh is to be added during the 2015 – 2030 period.

Extra cost/kWh = 12 – 5 = 7 eurocent/kWh, assuming an average wholesale price at 5 c/kW for the 2015 – 2030 period. Much of the new wind energy will be offshore, and its unsubsidized energy cost is likely to be 15 – 20 eurocent/kWh.

Approximate EEG surcharges MOSTLY ON HOUSEHOLD ELECTRIC BILLS = 0.07 x 157,457,000,000 kWh = $11.02 b euro; this item increases from zero at the start of 2015 to 11.02 b euro at the end of 2030.

This slowly increasing amount is in addition to the 23.6 b euro (est) in 2014, say $24.5 b euro in 2015, which will be slowly declining, per existing feed-in tariff schedules.

Estimated RE and Capital Cost: The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (“BMWi”) has drafted a first working vision of a revised German Renewables Energy Sources Act (EEG). This first draft led to further clarification of the EEG 2.0 program, i.e. the reform of the EEG.

The draft revision includes 2030 capacity targets, GW, for new onshore wind, new offshore wind, new solar, new biomass, but no targets for hydro and geothermal energy.

Germany’s total generation was 633,600 GWh in 2013. Assume it remains unchanged from start 2015 to end 2030, 16 years.  New RE at end 2030 = 50% x 633,600 – RE in place at start of 2015 = 316,800 – 159,343 = 157,457 GWh.

New RE: The new RE production, GWh, in 2030 is estimated as follows:

…………………………….Capacity, GW………….CF…………….Production, GWh

New wind onshore…….2.5 GW/yr x 16 yrs…….0.195……………..68,328

New wind offshore…….15 GW by 2030…………0.40*……………..52,560 

New solar………………..3 GW/yr x 16 yrs……..0.095………………39,946 

New biomass…………..1.6 GW by 2030………...0.70……………………….9,811

Total new RE = 170,645 GWh

* The Alpha Ventus offshore project, near Borkum, North Sea, 12 units, 5 MW each, 600 ft tall, capital cost 250 m euro, or 4,200 euro/kW, had a CF of 0.482 over a 3-yr operating period (2011, 2012, 2013). Not all locations are that windy. It would be a challenge to find enough offshore sites for 15,000 MW of turbine plants to achieve an average CF of 0.40.

*  Windpark Noordoostpolder, onshore/near-shore, Ijselmeer, 48 units 3.6 MW, plus 38 units 7.58 MW = 450 MW, capital cost 1 b euro, or 2,220 euro/kW, CF of 0.355.

The proposed new GW, installed per growth targets, would produce a few percent in excess of the above 157,457 GWh, however, performance of existing and new systems degrades with age.

Capital Cost: The capital cost of the proposed new RE capacity is estimated as follows:

…………………………..Cost, m euro/MW…….Capacity, MW……..Capital Cost, b euro

New wind onshore………….2……………….40,000………………….80 

New wind offshore………..4.2………………15,000………………….63 

New solar……………………2………………..48,000………………….96

New biomass………………2.5………………..1,600…………………..4

Total new capital cost by 2030 = 243 b euro.

The new capital cost excludes:

– EEG supplementary payments, 4.2 b euro in 2013, likely increasing in future years. See above.

– Onshore/Offshore transmission system build-outs, about 75 b euro, if buried on shore.

– Capital costs and O&M costs for balancing and backup build-outs, billions of euros, as Germany cannot continue to use neighbors’ grids for that purpose.

Capital costs and O&M costs for maintaining “capacity adequacy” of conventional generating units for when wind and solar energy are insufficient.

The end result will be, absent utility-scale, economically viable energy storage (not yet invented), a capacity of RE systems that produces expensive energy, plus a capacity of conventional energy systems for “capacity adequacy”. The levelized cost of such a dual energy system will be about 2 – 3 times greater than without the RE systems.

EEG Capital and Surcharge Cost Summary:

This section has an estimate of the capital and surcharge costs of the EEG-1 phase; start 2000 – end 2014 (15 years), and EEG-2 phase; start 2015 – end 2030 (16 years). The assumptions take into account the EEG surcharge build-up and wind-down periods of RE systems built during the phases. RE subsidies are for 20 years.  

EEG – 1

The total EEG-1 surcharges on electric bills increased from zero at start of 2000 to about 24.5 b euro in 2014, will be decreasing to zero by end of 2034.

Costs During the EEG-1 Build-up and Wind-down Period:

Surcharge during build-up from start 2000 to end 2014, b euro………………..111.6

Surcharge during wind-down from start 2015 to end 2034, b euro…………….275.8

Total surcharge, b euro…………………………………………………………………….387.4

In addition, 200.2 b euro capital cost to build out the RE systems (calculated above), which typically last only 20 – 25 years!!

Costs, such as grid build-outs, capacity adequacy, balancing losses, etc., are not included.

EEG – 2

The total EEG-2 surcharges on electric bills increased from zero at start of 2015 to about 11.7 b euro in 2030, will be decreasing to zero by end of 2050.

Costs During the EEG-2 Build-up and Wind-down Period:

Surcharge during build-up from start 2015 to end 2030, b euro………………..102.3

Surcharge during wind-down from start 2031 to end 2050, b euro…………….111.0

Total surcharge, b euro………………………………………………………………………213.2

In addition, 243.0 b euro capital cost to build out the RE systems (calculated above), which typically last only 20 – 25 years!!

Costs, such as grid build-outs, capacity adequacy, balancing losses, etc., are not included.


– RE systems installed at the start of 2000 receive feed-in rates to the end of 2019, i.e., for 20 years, etc.

– (EEG-1 + EEG-2) surcharge peaks at about 25.68 b euro during 2019, will be decreasing to zero by end of 2050.

Additional sources:–business.html#WHnUaZp

Photo Credit: Germany and Renewables Cost/shutterstock




Michael Berndtson's picture
Michael Berndtson on Feb 12, 2014

I’m confused. I just read a blog post on Smart Planet that seems to say the opposite.

“Major English-language media have been propagating a false narrative about the stunning success of Germany’s transition to renewable energy: the Energiewende. To hear them tell it, the transition has been a massive failure, driving up power prices, putting Germany’s grid at risk of blackouts, and inspiring a mass revolt against renewables. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The article is bacially a FAQ myth busting exercise.

Michael Berndtson's picture
Michael Berndtson on Feb 13, 2014

You say the work stands as is, because of your professional status. Who is paying you? That is a reasonable question to ask. Another reasonable question would be, why should I trust your work? Der Spiegel and Fox Business are doing a putsch on Germany’s energy plan. So that alone gives many pause.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on Feb 13, 2014

The article you mention places a lot of emphasis on many sideshows and then glosses over the main problem: RE technology-forcing is the slowest and most expensive way to cut CO2. 

I did a fundamental analysis on the EEG surcharge some time ago which shows that Germans pay quadruple the actual value of the ~25% RE on their grid. This enormous cost is only set to get larger in the future as the country is forced more and more onto expensive solar PV and offshore wind and the costs of intermittency become increasingly severe. 

In return for this great expense, the German contribution to European CO2 emissions has risen from 19.3% in 2007 to 20.5% in 2012 (BP Statistical review 2013) with a further increase in in 2013. Over the past two years, CO2 emissions in Germany have actually risen significantly faster than GDP – a very bad thing for any country, let alone a highly developed nation like Germany. 

The German willingness to pay for environmental protection is truly amazing and very much unique in the world we live in today. It is very sad to see this unique attribute being wasted so badly. 

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on Feb 13, 2014

Pity the article in question does not deal with the numbers posted above. Two things from your article though

“Myth: Germany is burning more coal because of its nuclear phaseout. Fact: The increase was temporary, and is now reversing.”

That would seem to be at odds with the data below. The most recent reports put 2013 as an even bigger coal user. For the first half of the year platts has said that “Coal plants increased production by about 5% to 130.3 TWh in the first six months of 2013 as output from gas-fired power plants fell 17%”

Most things are a little bit more complext than what your article makes them out to be. Hence why I could not be bothered with the second…

Michael Berndtson's picture
Michael Berndtson on Feb 13, 2014

Then you’re not writing on Germany’s energy policy as a professional, but as a retiree. I’ll assume then that all your investments are in utilities and publically traded providers of centralized electricity generation. To hold your nut.

Anyway, what is the take away of your analysis? Are you warning others of the pitfalls of Germany’s renewables push? Should we stop with wind and solar in the US? 

Since you’re retired and it’s too late to discuss an engineer’s role in communication, this may be for others. An engineer basically takes an idea and puts it into action. An engineer has to be able to communicate to others that may not as knowledgeable or fully engaged in the engineering process. This could be investors, constructors, operators, electricity rate payers or the public at large. If an engineer can’t convince others that a plan is or isn’t feasible and the right or wrong solution to the problem, then he/she is not an engineer. A scientist or a dude with engineering degrees, maybe, but not an engineer.

All ideas don’t need PR pushes and salesmen. Good engineers do 80/20 sales/technical.

I believe the purpose of the Energy Collective blog is to communicate technical ideas to those that aren’t technical. A blog post that submarines an entire country’s energy plan in the title, plops down some numbers and cut and pastes some citations, isn’t an effective way to communicate.  For what it’s worth, don’t hunt in packs with other blog posters in the comments section, it comes off weak and small. 


Michael Berndtson's picture
Michael Berndtson on Feb 13, 2014

I’m truly impressed with your accomplishments. I’ll give you the internet equivalent of an at-a-boy.

So are you saying that Germany’s energy plan is not economically feasible and should be reversed or changed? Is there a lesson to be learned here in the US? I don’t need a reference from an esteemed journal or a quote from a learned individual. 

I’m really confused on this issue. You may be communicating well over my head. So its me. Maybe send in a PR rep or someone that writes really slowly and with small words. Depending on which news source I read, it appears that German enviros and greens don’t like it. Nuclear and old fashion utilities don’t like it. Fossil fuel hates it. Other Eurpean Countries don’t So who likes it? Folks who went off the grid with PV roof top solar? 

Another reference from Amory Lovins – the dude from Rocky Mountain Institute. Funny story. I saw him speak at an AIChE meeting over 20 years ago. He handled the slings and arrows from retired petroleum refining engineers really well. They actually parleyed the argument into a great discussion on hydrogen safety for a future hydrogen economy. Anyway, Lovins is positive on Germany’s renewables push. Obviously.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Feb 13, 2014

Willem, you have once again done a very thorough job on covering Germany’s renewable energy policies and costs.  Another factor to consider is the impact and cost on neighboring EU Countries that are connected-integrated into Germany’s power grids.  I suspect that Germany would not have been able to expand renewable wind and solar as rapidly in recent years without the demand response/support and fully dispatchable intermediate power generation capabilities of its neighbors.  As Germany continues to increase their renewable power capacities at record setting levels in the future it will be interesting to observe the reactions of neighboring power grid operators, since some these countries may be negatively impacted in their ability to expand their domestic wind & solar.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Feb 14, 2014

This brings up an important point.  On any contentious issue, both sides of the issue will be argued vigorously.  For art and politics, everyone’s opinion counts, but for technical issues like energy systems, there are often right and wrong answers.  So how can readers (including non-technical readers) avoid confirmation bias, and draw the best conclusion?

Readers should ask themselves, the following:

  • has the author supported his/her claims with data?
  • is the data from a credible and objective source?
  • is the data sufficient to support the claims?
  • are URL links provided so the data can be checked?
  • how objective is the author? 

In the old days, major newspapers all had tech writers who would do this analysis for readers,  but in the internet age, it’s “reader beware”.  Nowadays unfortunately, mainstream journalists are often poor sources for technical information, since they lack technical training and have a strong vested interest in sensationalism.


For the specific example of Willem’s article claiming high cost for Energiewende versus the Chris Nelder’s article claiming Energiewende’s success, I’ll give my opinion, but encourage readers to draw their own.  

Willem clearly has more respect for data than Chris, if anything Willem provides too much tabular data (e.g. when a graph would be more readable).

It’s not that Chris’s data is wrong, but he mostly uses the wrong data or misinterprets it: in arguing that solar and wind are quickly taking over the German grid, he gives peak instantaneous data (citing 60% at noon one day) rather than the much more important annual averages (around 16% I think?).  He totally misunderstands the significance of falling wholesale power prices (he thinks it’s good, but given that dispatchable power from fossil fuel plants is still needed, it’s really bad that the existing market is failing to pay for them adequately).

The most frustrating thing for me about Chris’s article is that it only discusses one of the three the most important questions about Energiewende:  cost (he discusses this, but poorly), technology needed for high penetration (ignored), the implication of the phasing-out nuclear before coal (ignored/mis-represented).  He explains that 80% of Germans are opposed to nuclear, but does not give similar data for coal; for all we know, the pro-coal lobby could be unbeatable in Germany, which implies Energiewende will fail, but he’s already declared it a success.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Feb 14, 2014

Michael, I must disagree with you on the role of engineers.  There are certainly examples of engineers who are great at non-technical tasks like communicating and leadership; they are rare, and often accomplish great things (e.g. Werner Von Braun, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, …).  But most successful tech companies are structured around a completely non-technical leaders who has a trusted engineering VP who makes all the technical leadership decisions, and creates an environment where nerdy engineers can thrive in spite of poor interpersonal skills.  In other words, the majority of engineering design is done by people who only communicate with other technical people.  Sales and applications engineers are a different breed with different skills.

So how does anything big get done if the lines of technical communications only go as far as the engineering VP?  That’s where fly-offs and field trials come in.  To convince anyone outside of one’s own company of an engineering prediction, you’ve got to build actual hardware and demo it in the real world.  To their credit, Germany has done exactly that with renewable energy.  The problem is that the test report that describe how well the system is working are being filtered through politicians and renewable cheer-leaders.  The discussion of Energiewende needs more analysists like Willem who are willing to look at the data before proclaiming sucessor failure, and dig past the surface to understand what is happening.

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on Feb 14, 2014


There are two good sources based on 2012 to give you renewable electricity and energy rates in Germany. Try googling

  • Development of renewable energy sources in Germany 2012 by the AGEE stat
  • Electricity production from solar and wind in Germany in 2012 by the FRAUNHOFER INSTITUTE FOR SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS ISE

The latter puts wind and solar at 8.2% and 5% of the gross electricity consumption*.

A note; I never like seening sources of generation being expressed as electricity consumption. We cannot say that x amount of solar or x amount of coal is being consumed when there is a large export factor as in Germany. While the error is probably in the 5-10%, it is still qualitative for me. Here it should be generation.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on Feb 14, 2014

Excellent comment. I would love to hear Chris or Michael’s reply. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on Feb 14, 2014

German solar and wind in 2013 generated 29.7 TWh and 47.2 TWh respectively. In 2012, Germany produced 623 TWh of electricity, thereby implying that roughly 4.8% and 7.6% of produced electricity is from solar and wind respectively. A rough estimate I made earlier is that Germany uses its neighbours’ grids to balance about 28% of its wind and 45% of its solar generation. 

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on Feb 14, 2014

Willem, may I ask why you don’t use any graphs in your articles? Doing so would really make your analyses and experience a lot more accessible to readers. Due to the all-text format you use, I also missed this information and therefore mistakenly gave information in my comment that was already in your article. 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Feb 15, 2014

Wow, 4.8% and 7.6% for solar and wind in Germany are surprisingly low!   For comparison, Texas, which is similar in size to Germany, and on an isolated grid gets about 8.3% of its electricity from wind (see Berkeley Labs data here), and is doing so mainly for diversification; the Texans love their oil and gas industry, and would never advocate or lead a phase-out.

(The Berkeley labs report is where I got the 10% wind data from Germany.)

Michael Berndtson's picture
Michael Berndtson on Feb 15, 2014

Nathan, That’s really not true and kind of an outdated perception. Think of technical consulting and engineering firms like PR and advertising agencies. The head of these agencies usually have experience germane to its service, be it account people or creative.

Corporate engineering departments like rocket manufacturers, software companies and electric auto manufacturers (the companies of the leaders you cited) are becoming smaller and more marketing focussed. Even concept design and feasibility is becoming increasingly contracted out. Not just everything after 30 percent design, where details use to be designed and engineered by contractors.

Successfull corporations that want to keep most work in house, don’t have too many layers of communicators and send its engineers to charm school.

Most technical consulting, engineering, construction and manufacturing support is being done through contractors these days. Corporate engineering departments have become or are becoming engineering management. A really good example is oil and gas companies and utiltities. Most major oil and large utilities contract out almost all its engineering after initial desire. The head of those contractors are usually engineers, scientists or someone that really knows the nuts and bolts of the activity or product. They have to bring in clients to justify higher salaries above engineering grade.

For instance, Shell contracts out R&D, exploration, production, transmission, refining and marketing of oil and oil products. AMEC for technical consulting. Schlumberger for exploration. Halliburtan for drilling and production. Bechtel for production and refining. WorleyParsons for refining modification and routine operations. All of these examples include technical consulting and engineering. Everyone of the employees of these contractors are trained to be client focussed (i.e. salesmen). How much selling they’re doing depends on what they doing. Sometimes it’s 1% or the time. Other times it’s 99%.


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Feb 20, 2014

Assume no renewable in Germany. At new years eve they install so much wind+solar that those supply 50% of Germany’s electricity (the situation scheduled for ~2030).
So the Feed-in-Tariffs (for Jan.2014) are: wind 8.8cent/KWh, solar 9.5-13.7cent/Kwh. On average 10cent/KWh.
Whole sale price 4cent/Kwh.

Av. Energiewende subsidie is then 10-4 = 6cent/KWh for each KWh produced by wind/solar (= 50% of all electricity).

So an Energiewende levy of only 3cent/KWh on all electricity consumed is enough to cover all subsidies for the 50% of all electricity generated by wind and solar.
That 3 cent is half the current Energiewende levy.

This shows that the Energiewende levy will go down.
As also stated by Merkel and shown by the scenario studies of the German institutes who predict a small increase and then a gradual decline which starts 2020 – 2025.

Consider further that experts predict that the price decrease of solar will continue with 8%/year (as in the last 35years) for the next decade, as well as that of wind with ~4%/year.
Wind may end when we have wind turbines of 20MW that last 60years (having no gearbox) with minimum maintenance (compare planes). But for solar the end is not clear. That price decrease may continue another 35years.

Stories about economical not feasible belong in the phantasy list that Bloomberg cs promote(d). Such as grid black outs, unstable grid, Energiewende imposed on the population by a green/facist elite, German factories moving out of the country, etc.
And now, since nobody can deny that the population does support the Energiewende overwhelmingly;  the German elite doubting about the Energiewende…

Considering that so many illusions are published and believed in English literature about a close ally with similar language and culture, while it concerns a simple, easy to check, factual story; the Energiewende,
I question myself how wrong we are regarding our ideas about Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

I travelled in Iran some years ago, and it became clear that nobody want something like the Shah back.
Even while not religious, people believe that the present democracy under the supervision of the ayathollah’s, is far better than they had under the Shah. And they are fully prepared to defend it.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Feb 20, 2014


Where did you read these new targets?
I read that the coalition negotiation ended in a compromise:
35% renewable in 2020 (stays the same)
45% renewable in 2025 (new intermediate target)
55-60% renewable in 2030 (was 50%)

The small increase of the speed was under pressure of the SPD that states in its program that it will speed up the Energiewende much more. I find it highly unlikely that Merkel insults her coalition partner by adapting lower targets within a few month after the agreement, while there are no new facts on the table.

Do not misjudge the recent actions to keep the speed of the Energiewende in line with the scenario.
Which is an installation rate of ~2.5-3GW/year solar and ~2.5GW/year wind until:
 – the grid upgrades are far enough to allow more. Last summer a special new law was installed in order to speed that up (so less delay due to NIMBY, etc.).
 – FiT’s have decreased further, so the Energiewende levy will not increase much more as Merkel promised.

Gabriëls want to be sure he won’t make the same slips as his predecessor, who allowed installation rates of 10GW/year wind+solar in 2011 and 2012, which created the above mentioned difficulties.
Assume these slips, two year in a row, did cost his predecessor (Altmaier) his job.
I guess that he was surprised by the continued price fall of solar, as he did lower the solar FiT’s substantially (from ~29cent in jan.2011 towards ~17cent in jan 2013 for small rooftop solar)

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Feb 21, 2014

Bas, your predictions for future continued cost reductions strike me as very optimistic.  Also, in the US, wind turbines are slowing down around 2.5 MW, due to constraints on large items travelling on normal roadways and underpasses.  The prediction of 60 service life for wind turbines may be unrealistic too (structures which are subject to cyclical loads have their lives limited by “fatigue”; if you have to make a piece 3x strong/heavier to make it last 3x as long, then it may cost triple, and also triple the levelized energy cost, since lifetime doesn’t matter much for levelized cost).

Also, I’m suspicious that claims that energy storage is not needed until very high penetration is reach is dependent on tightly integrating the German grid with surrounding nations, and it may require that the total solar and wind penetration in the area remain modest (like 40%).

Can you point me to any scientific sources that support your optimism?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Feb 21, 2014


…structures which are subject to cyclical loads have their lives limited by “fatigue”..
The first jet passengers planes (UK made) came down (while flying midair) because of ‘fatgue’ after a few thousand flight hours. But now planes fly >60 years without changing the wings. And those wings experience far more variation in temperature, pressure, etc.
In general material and tension should be such that no hair cracks can occur and local high tension places in the material should be avoided (we now have simulation programs for that).

…constraints on large items travelling on normal roadways and underpasses…
So the blades of 8MW wind turbines are transported in two parts, etc.
One of the issues is the max. weight that a mobile crane can lift to an altitude of ~150meter and keep the load there stable so it can be placed within a milimeter by the technicians on the nacelle.

So direct drive wind turbines. Especially the development of superconducting magnets is very welcome as electricity generators with those magnets weight less than those with permanent magnets, and it is expected that the cool units will become compact with little or no maintenance need (like your fridge).
The EU market study in the link above also indicate a lot of further costs savings for wind turbines.

…wind turbines are slowing down around 2.5 MW…
Wind turbine development goes slow. Little research. I do not know of any (government financed) institute with many scientists that concentrate on development of better wind turbines (as nuclear has).
So it will take another 20 years or so before the 20MW wind turbine is reached that the EU Upwind study concluded to be feasable with present technology.

Note that the energie that a wind park can harvest from a certain area, increases linear with the size of the wind turbine (bigger turbines catch also higher winds).
The bigger windturbines are also a reason that those predictions that ~20% of Germany needs to be covered with wind parks in order to generate all electricity it needs, are nonsense.

…predictions for future continued cost reductions…
PV-solar development rides on the computer semiconductor/integrated circuit (IC) developments.
So PV developments also follow Moore’s law since ~35years; produced electricity ~8%/year cheaper. Last few years we saw an accelaration in the cost decline, however that is a fluctuation to my opinion (just as the rise of CO2 in Germany).

Automated production will make PV-panels with yields of 30%-40% (now 15%-21%) as well as convertors, so cheap that those will become a real minor part of the costs to install an installation. And installation will become much easier as you see when you compare Germany with USA (in USA solar installations cost twice those in Germany, mainly due to less efficient installation, more paperwork, more management, etc).

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Feb 22, 2014

Cyclic loading of wind turbines is much worse than what jet aircraft experience.  Passengers hate flying in the rough air which is so damaging to aircraft wings, so pilots avoid it.  And the temperature and pressure cycling is only once per flight (ascent/descent).  In contrast, wind speed rises with height, so the turbine blades experiences a varying load in every single revolution.  30,000 flight hours is a very long life for an airplane; that’s about 7 years with 50% duty cycle (which wind turbine do but airplanes do not).  You still have not provided a reference to any science predicting 60 year lifetimes.

The Enercon E-126 7.6 MWatt wind turbine which is described in the crane article which you provided appears to have a tower base diameter of about 14 meters (compared to the GE 2.5 MW turbine with a 5m dia *100m meter tower).  This is much too wide to travel on most US freeways, even if the bottom 25% is a multi-piece concrete structure.  It is likely this size turbine is restricted to a few land locations with easy routes to the factory, with the majority of installations expected off-shore.  The EU Upwind study as described in the linked article appears to be focused on off-shore turbines, which are not constrained by over-land transportation limitation (although the article said that a whole new generation of ships, cranes, and docks would be needed for 20 MWatt off-shore units).

On page 13 of the Upwind study, the table compares the predicted 20 MW turbine to a 5 MW part.  The predicted energy output goes up by 4.4x, the rotor mass goes up by 6.3x, and the total mass goes up by 5.6x.  Similarly, installation in deep water will require more massive towers/foundations.  This all suggests degrading economics and degraded EROI (energy return on energy investment).

So you have provided no support for the claim of impending 20 MWatt on-shore turbines (though I agree that off-shore turbines are likely to continue climbing in size).  Furthermore, contrary to your claim of little government funding, the EU Upwind large turbine study is funded by the EU, and the US government NREL and Oakridge National labs are also funding work on advanced wind turbines (from the EU Upwind article you linked).

The article on Moore’s law for PV is just wishful thinking, written by an enthusiasts, not a photovoltaic scienticst or engineer.  Moore’s law is based on shrinking feature size, not market growth.  The PV cost reductions are almost all explained by the learning effect (which also effects the cost of nuclear power etc), with shrinking areas (i.e. efficiency improvements) occurring at a very slow rate.  I should also point out that your claims elsewhere that high efficiency triple-juction cells would eventually come to rooftop flatplates is also highly optimistic, since with today’s technology, these cells can not be built, even in advanced research labs, using normal abundant silicon, but require exotic materials like gallium-arsenide. 

The notion that today’s PV production lacks automation that will be available in the future is non-sense.  There is no way that Americans or Germans can compete alongside Chinese vendors except when advanced automation is in use.  (one terminology point: in semiconductor fabrication the term “yield” always means the fraction of produced items that function and are not “scrap”; it never means “efficiency”; thus yields should be above 90%).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Feb 24, 2014


As shown, anybody who do not know the detail figures, can make wild guesses and conclude that the costs of the Energiewende are unaccepatble high or conclude that the costs are very low.

The issue is that you need so many figures about the past FiT’s their volumes and their expire dates, as well about future FiT’s and volumes, that only a smart guy who spends all the time to it and has access to all detailed info, can do good predictions. Especially you also have to estimate storage subsidies vs grid upgrades, etc. So actually you need a team of experts.
Which the German responible institutes have.

As an example: You estimate that offshore wind will become important. While there is huge publicity about is the contribution of offfshore is near zere: ~300MW offshore wind vs 33GW onshore wind.
Solar capacity has already surpassed wind (~35GW vs ~32GW).
I estimate that solar installation rate will stay much higher, so much that production will surpass wind by far, due to the fast cost price decrease. So this will happen while the FiT will become significant lower than that of onshore wind. May even happen without any FiT (as will come for >1MW solar installations this or next year)…
That implies fundamental lower cost of the transition to renewable…

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Feb 28, 2014

Of course the latest round of turbines that are before FAA for approval in Michigan are 590′ tall to the tip of the rotor. Probably won’t even notice they are there.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 6, 2014

At the moment 3-6MW is the practical size.
That situation will not stay the same.

One of the reasons; a certain available wind park area of e.g. 1000km² equipped with wind turbines that are 2 times bigger, produces ~2 times more electricity from that area.
So if available areas become scarce, higher and bigger turbines will be chosen.
This implies that a smaller area is needed to produce the 80MW that Germany needs at peak moments.
So turbines can installed at only the very suitable spots. Only in areas that are not deep at sea, and only at windy places at land which Gabriel now seems to target.

Another; when the market for those big turbines grows, improvements in design. Take e.g:

superconducting magnets, not considered in the UPwind study*), which allow for nacelles that are less heavy. Wind turbines that use those are already considered.
Stronger the SeaTitan 10MW wind turbine using superconducting magnets is in development. The steps from 10MW towards 20MW will come with gradual further improvements such as:

– blades that not only bend with a sudden wind blast, but also torque (not considered in the UPwind study*). So that the pressure on the blade, as well as the speed of the blade, will then become lower instantaneous without the delay that a servo to adjust the torque (or angle of attack) implies.
So the blade can then be made much lighter.

It implies that the stiffness of the blade is less regarding torque (the blade may get some curve to allow for that just as the propellor of advanced subs).


Of course a 20MW turbine will not hit the market tomorrow.
Those developments take lots of money. So market volumes need to increase first, unless government start to spend real money into wind research. 10% of the tax money spent into nuclear research would be more than enough. That may bring wind turbines of 40MW… 

*) The UPwind study that concluded that a 20MW wind turbine is feasible, restricted itself to a design without new developments.


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 4, 2014

German solar costs
The German Feed-in-Tariffs (FiT) of PV-solar is still going down with 1% a month (now 13.4cent/KWh for small rooftop and 9.3cent/KWh for big solar during 20years). All indications are that the downward trend continues with >8%/year.
That implies that in 1920 the average FiT for new solar will be ~7cent/Kwh.*)
Germany started a succesful batterie storage subsidie program for small rooftop installations (<10KW), which implies less load for the grid (especially in the early evening) and allows for further expansion.

Until few years ago installed PV solar capacity was minor compared to wind. Now it surpassed wind and it looks likely that PV solar production may also surpass that of wind before 2020.

German wind costs
The Energiewende assumes ~10% of the wind capacity to be offshore. It is <1%. Now the responsible German minister (Altmaier) takes action to bring the share of offshore in line with the Energiewende, as scenario studies show that the costs of offshore will fall significantly if the installation rate is increased.
If Altmaier succeeds then offshore installation rate will become ~10% of the onshore rate and offshore will have a FiT of ~12cent/Kwh in 1920.**)

Onshore wind FiT will be ~7.5cent/KWh during ~15years in 2020 (long term 3%/year decrease).
That implies that the combination of new installed onshore+offshore wind will have ~8cent/Kwh in 2020 

Taking some spare (e.g. for the batterie subsidies, etc) and neglecting the share of biomass/waste/hydro/geothermal, this implies that in 2020 the average FiT will be ~8cent/Kwh. With a whole sale price of 5cent/KWh, every KWh produced by the new installed wind+solar requires a subsidie of 3cent/KWh

Costs of the Energiewende
With 35% renewable in 2020, it implies that the Energiewende levy then would be 1cent/Kwh (0.35×3) if all was installed in 2020 (now 6cent/Kwh).

That will not happen as the levy has to pay off the high FiT’s of previous years. E.g. solar FiT was near ~50cent/KWh until ~2007 (so that ends in 2027). Wind FiT’s end in general after 11-15years.
But, with the gradual falling away of the old expensive FiT’s the levy will decrease.

This implies that the increase of the Energiewende levy will flatten out and start to decrease somewhere in the 2020-2030 period, as expected by the responsible Germans institutes (estimations ~2023) and said by Merkel.

It is unrealistic to expect that Germany will change its path towards 80% renewable electricity in 2050, as 80%-95% of the population will continue to support it. A major factor being the low costs which will not increase much compared to the present situation (<1% of the income of lower income households). Those costs will in general even decrease in a decade or so.

In addition to the fast decreasing costs of solar, one of the important downwards drivers of the costs become the fast decreasing battery costs that experts expect. And which is stimulated by Germany with their new sucesful subsidy program.

*) Most solar in Germany is small rooftop, in line with the Energiewende target to democratize electricity.
The continued price decrease in combination with the same decrease for batteries creates a paradigm change.

**) The prime minister of Sleeswijk-Holstein, the state in the north with most wind turbines, opposes Altmaiers intention to prioritize offshore wind. He stated that Sleeswijk-Holstein has more than enough sites to cover all wind capacity Germany needs for the next decades.
NIMBY is a non issue in Sleeswijk-Holstein (people there earn money with the wind turbines).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 4, 2014


Did you ever stay nearby a serious high wind turbine?
My experience (and that of my friends) is that you do not hear them at all, even if you try, unless you are within <100m distance and it is very quiet.

Maybe the (surface of the) blades in the US are of lower quality. If not very smooth, the noise increases fast.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 5, 2014

EFI claims, the EEG program was neither a cost-efficient climate protection tool, nor did it have a positive effect on innovation
These EFI**) claims and proposals were wellknown before the coalition negotiations between Merkel and the socialists started. Those negotiations resulted in an agreement to adapt some, such as:
 – increase the speed of the Energiewende slightly (e.g. from 50% ren. in 2030 towards 55-60%)
 – extend the flexible corridor installed for solar towards wind, etc. So no sudden surprise anymore*)

So the EEG had to be adapted which process (everybody has a say) is now going on.

Please remind that the goals of the Energiewende are:
1. Nuclear out;
2. Democratize electrictiy/energy;
3. More sustainability (80% renewable in 2050):
Less CO2 is probably even less important than Affordable costs. As an example:
This autumn Merkel blocked EU proposals (in line with EFI recommendations) to raise the CO2 price.

… Not possible that PV solar production may surpass that of wind before 2020 given the wind and solar MW corridors.
Of course not with the present corridors, but those may change in the 2016/2020 time frame as the reasons to restrict solar are then falling away (in the past those regulations did also change every few years):
 – the grid problems should then be solved. In addition most new rooftop solar will also have a battery installed. Which implies lower load for the grid. There is discussion to allow the grid operator to load/unload the batteries, which can take grid peak loads away.

 – Solar FiT’s will then probably be below those for onshore wind, which implies that installing more solar and less wind will raise the Energiewende levy less.

So the corridors are then changed.

Denmark is ~20 years ahead of Germany regarding the transition towards a 100% renewable & sustainable energy situation. All new houses in Denmark have to be energy neutral. It makes houses more expensive to build, but in the long range it saves lots of money.

Denmark uses a premium model to stimulate wind. It costs less and brings more wind capacity (however little solar, partly also due to its high latitiude).
There is some debate in Germany whether to follow the Danish model. But it is not sure at all whether that model would work in Germany, as there are substantial cultural & mentality differences (I doubt that also).

Their quest towards 100% renewable in 2050 (for all energy!) did create huge companies such as Vestas. It also implies less/no import of expensive fuel.

Your idea that e.g. new nuclear is cheaper is contradicted totally when one analyse the financials around the proposed new nuclear plant in UK. The since 2012 inflation corrected FiT results in a FiT of 14cent/KWh at the start of the plant in 2023 (2% inflation), 19cent in 2040 (half way the 35 year FiT period and 28cent/KWh at the end of the guaranteed FiT period in 2058.

Add to those the subsidies:
 – loan guarantees worth ~1billion/year (premium of the risk for government / taxpayers)
 – decommission costs guarantees, waste costs guarantees, waste liability premium guarantee, accident liability guarantees (= insurance premium paid by goverment, invisible until disaster strikes), etc.

Then the costs of new nuclear are ~25cent/Kwh in 2023, ~30cent/KWh in 2040, 33cent in 2058.
About twice the costs of the 12cent/KWh for offshore wind in 2023 (which has a FiT period of only 15years)! And that is one of the most expensive forms of renewable.

*) in 2011 and 2012 the installation rate of solar increased a factor 2 – 3 due to continued solar pricefall. That created grid and financial problems. Financial as the FiT was then high, so the Energiewende levy increased more than expected.

**) EFI is a government appointed free advisory council, concerning science and general economy, such as competiviness of German economy.

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 5, 2014

This is simply not true. If they were silent, there would be no need to regulate the noise at all. But there clearly is as Vestas states here: “Vestas also recommends that governments supplement relative noise limits with a low absolute maximum limit in areas of very low background noise (e.g. quiet countryside), which ensures minimal noise disturbance for turbine neighbours also in these places.”

If you “do not hear them at all” then Vestas would not need to publish this language.

And your experience is flatly contradicted by my own and thousands of others living within the footprint of wind plants.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Mar 5, 2014


Your lack of objectivity continues to amaze.  Infrasound has little support among people familiar with the literature.  It is primarily the excuse of fossil fuel apologists and people with other strange agendas. 

I agree with you that noise can be an issue for people in pristine areas such as Maine and Vermont.  In pretty much any other area it is used as a boogyman and is fiction.  I am sure you could find occasional counterexamples but in general I see folks living next to highways complaining about turbine noise and role my eyes as the press gives them traction.  Sometimes a senseless temper tantrum really is just a senseless temper tantrum.


“Operating 5 MW units ONSHORE will cause much NIMBY.” 

To make this general comment is odd.  In rural agricultural areas people are accustomed to using the land for revenue and tend to appreciate the opportunity as evidenced by the massive build-out in IA, IL and IN.  In suburban areas like the East Coast, I think 10kw would get a lot of pushback.  In rural scenic areas, again, reasonable pushback.  But the central and interior regions are where real and valuable impact can be made in terms of reducing carbon and other externalities.  In those areas I have not been hearing about much NIMBY pushback.  Do you have references to imply otherwise?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 5, 2014


International trading
I really do not see what is wrong with Denmark using their interconnection capacity with Norway. Both parties earn money by that. Seems to me logical, normal trade.

They trade also with Sweden, Germany and NL. NL trades electricity with Germany, UK, Belgium, France, Norway and Denmark.  We will increase our interconnection capacity with Norway (they also earn money with their pumped storage service to us)  and Germany. Probably also with UK as the wholesale prices in UK are in general very high.

“How going to 50% wind energy is a wealth generator for Denmark remains a mystery.
The alternative, new nuclear, is clearly far more expensive (twice the costs of offshore wind).
And once those wind turbines run >60years, without having a gearbox, the costs become very low. So then the new nuclear alternative becomes >4times more expensive…

I believe the northern EU countries (NL, Germany) may install long distance connections with Spain/Portugal as the wind system here implies either lots of wind at Spain/Portogal or here in NL, Denmark, Germany. The cable can be via the sea.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Mar 5, 2014

For both solar and wind the resource just isn’t comparable.  Germany is pretty cloudy, not even as good as New England for solar.  Texas has phenomenal wind and good solar.  That probably explains it.  Here is a neat world solar resource map I ran across.  Its similar for wind, I think the average CF in Germany is about 20%.  Considerably higher in TX.  And they (Texans) don’t even use their best wind sites because they don’t have transmission access there.  I imagine the ERCOT build out will get lines to these sites but have not seen the maps of the planned build-out so not sure about that.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Mar 6, 2014


In general I agree with you.  However for quiet, scenic rural sites, the ambient noise levels can be very low.  Human hearing is remarkable and the sound can travel.  People often locate in these areas specifically for the absolute peace and quite that they offer.  So to me it represents one of the few cases where I think that the complaints make sense.  I too have gotten up close and personal with wind turbines of a number of makes and models and find it remarkable that in cases other than the one I just described, that anyone is given credibility.  It is a non-issue compared to the other ambient sound we are exposed to


Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Mar 6, 2014

If you have links that would be great.  There is literally a business growing up in the US to fight wind power.  I generally find that the folks trying to block wind turbines splatter lies and falsehoods so skillfully that it is not worth wading through their BS.  As I mentioned, I have seen folks living next to highways complaining about wind turbine noise.  I have gone and stood by the turbines which I could barely hear as I listened to the traffic bustling by.

I generally rely on Barnard who does a good job of posting links from the anti-wind crowd and then debunking them.  Barnard’s site provides a wealth of information and does a wonderful job of comparing the quality and credibility of anti-wind reports. 

If you have credible links to support reasonable people making reasonable claims in the midwest then by all means, post them.  But I won’t be wasting my time wading through the systematic obfuscation of wind opponents in an attempt to validate a position that you seem unable to address.


Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 6, 2014


I know virtually every so called “anti-wind” leader in the US. I am one of them.

I am willing to testify under oath that absolutely none of them are receiving income from any fossil fuel or nuclear power interests for their efforts to oppose industrial wind energy development. None of them. Period.

The truth is that these people spend heavily from their own personal means to promote sane energy policy both in the area of generation/energy economics as well just land use policy with respect to siting industrial turbines in proximity to human habitat.

For those who have nobly given so much of their time and resources fighting on the behalf of those in their community with little voice to be acccused of some dark funding is not just false: it is deeply offensive and hurtful.

There are many solid and credible sources on renewable energy issues. Mr. Post, Mr. Miller and Mr. Cloete are a few of the sharper thinkers on energy issues. If you have an open mind, they will lead you to sources that are reliable and impartial.

For my own part I would refer you to my group’s response to a recent report on renewable energy that was prepared by the State of Michigan. This link leads to my summary and the link at the bottom of that page leads to my extensively footnoted analysis of the State’s report.

Spending a few hours with that report and the supporting documents will give you a good start in coming to well informed opinions on renewable energy.


Kevon Martis


Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 6, 2014

This man is an intelligent and educated engineer. Does he sound credible to you? He lives in Michigan 1139′ from a turbine.

BTW: the turbine developer (a fossil fuel company) told him the project was safely sited and that they would comply with the county noise ordinance.

He brought expert testimony demonstrating that was false. Now the county’s independent engineer confirmed what this fellow’s engineer predicted: the project does not comply.

19 of his neighbors are now in litigation with the wind developer including one sitting county commissioner.



Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Mar 6, 2014

Looped up to the top, the message thread is getting too skinny.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Mar 6, 2014


Thanks for your thoughtful reply.  I hear your passion and I agree that improperly sited turbines are not good for the community and the grief vs energy value is sometimes not a good trade-off.  In my community I worked with a group to find siting that would potentially be viable for a turbine.  I strongly advocated against a number of sites that had the best wind resource because I felt that they were too close to residents and the value of the clean energy was far outweighed by the reasonable expectations of the homeowners.  However I was dismayed when a good site was found a good distance from homes and I saw the fierce opposition that was raised and the amount of disinformation that was spewed by a few people.  It left me jaded.  And as I have watched other battles I see it over an over again.  My own cousin, who is well educated, came to me with a littany of ‘facts’ about turbines being built near her vacation home.  I looked into her talking points and found most to be wild distortions or completely untrue.  In any event towns and the state are being forced to develop clearer bylaws and rules and that is a good thing.




Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 6, 2014

As I regularly tell people: if 56 turbines in Mason County MI could close a coal plant there would be a fair question of whether the tradeoffs were worth it. But 56 1.8MW turbines will produce the same amount of energy that a small combustion turbine could produce while hidden inside one dairy barn instead of covering 40 square miles. And since such turbines are dispatchable their energy is worth far more.

As Potomac Economics said about MISO wind: It’s output is sharply inverse to demand.

Thus it is of low economic value.

And as long as the federal PTC has no penalty for such behavior there is no economic incentive to develop storage.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 6, 2014


The 7.5MW wind turbine is installed at quite a number of locations here in The Netherlands (the out of date Wikipedia page in the link gives some impression), while we have a population density of ~400people/km².  N times more than USA or Vermont.
There is no real resistance…

I assume that 3 wind turbines of 3MW each, create more NIMBY issues than one higher 7.5MW machine, because less people can hear the noise of the 7.5MW machine compared to 3 machines of 3MW. And the 7.5MW machine probably produces the same amount of electricity as three 3MW machines as it is higher (catching the stronger wind at higher altitudes) and more advaned.

Furthermore I did a test with a few 2MW machines. If you are ~100m away, it is impossible to hear anything. I couldn’t, neither my friends.
But of course it depend on the design and smoothness of the blades. As that will improve further the noise will go down further.

There is discussion in the north of Netherlands (Friesland) to replace existing (~1MW) wind turbines inland, with new big wind turbines that are placed on/at the sea dikes.
The argument is not so much the noise, but some people find the view less and assume it may have negative effect on tourism (water-tourism on/around the lakes is important in Friesland).
I biked near the Baltic sea coast which has far higher density of wind turbines, and found many tourists. So I doubt whether it has negative influence.
Anyway it is decided to do scientific research to find out the truth.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 6, 2014


If government puts up standards, then nobody can sue them for the noise… or phantom noise.

And they assume that  they will meet those standards anyway.

A good pro-active attitude of Vestas.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 6, 2014


I too find the difference in perception regarding the Energiewende, between english literature and the Germans, appalling.
And it continues, despite:

  • Polls showing support for the Energiewende increased from ~50% in 2000 toward ~90% now.
  • The election results of last autumn that removed the only party (FDP) that wanted to delay the closure of NPP’s by a few years, from parliament. FDP got an historic heavy defeat from 16% down to out of parliament now, after being in parliament since its foundation >60years ago;
  • The fact that the Energiewende takes <1% of the household income of low income people (which also explains the high support levels).

I find it unbelievable that many well educated English speaking people, seem to think that Germany is just moving ahead as dummies.
While they (should) know that Germans are excellent detailed planners, so they spent ~$200million for consultancy studies before deciding in 2000 to the Energiewende scenario with 80% renewable in 2050.
They now have institutes, such as Fraunhofer, and scienctific discussuion circles (e.g. Agora) involving many scientists, that monitor progress and propose adjustments.

Still a smart man, such as e.g. Willem Post here, thinks he can calculate better and predicts that the costs will become too high, so the Energiewende will fail. While: 

  • Last autumn Merkel stated that the costs will go up only slightly and then (~2023) go down (based on predictions of her institutes);
  • Nearly all targets of the Energiewende are reached the last 12years
    (Offshore wind target not. That target is adjusted downwards in the coalition agreement last autumn, so the costs increase of the Energiewende becomes less as offshore is still expensive)
  • A simple down to earth calculation, that I showed, shows the same as Merkel said. 

I am really puzzled why/how such huge misunderstandings here, at Bloomberg, etc. while it concerns such a relative simple factual matter in a cultural similar country..
And why this continues, even after so many other ideas showed to be wrong.
Phantasies such as:

  • Unreliable grid
    (Far more reliable than that of any nuclear country);
  • Outages after the closure of 8 NPP’s in 2011
    (None, as Merkel knew when she took that decision. The regulating authority arranged standby of 3 fossil plants. One was asked to start up into spinning reserve for a few weeks in winter);
  • The country will be filled with solar panels and wind turbines
    (a simple calculation shows that covering 50% of the roofs with solar panels is enough to produce the 600TWh/a electricity that Germany needs. And that alone the northern state of Sleeswijk-Holstein can produce almost enough electrictiy with wind turbines to satisfy all needs);
  • A real / very expensive storage issue will occur
    (that was already debated in the nineties, so they built ~35 pumper storage facilities. Those suffer major losses now and all building activity stopped. Reasons:

    – More accurate studies calculated that those will not be needed before 2025 (~50% renewable) as the new flexible fossil plants are happy to fill the gaps;

    – Austria, Switserland, Norway utilities consume less hydro and buy German electricity when German wholesale price is low. And they utilize their hydro 100% the moment German wholesale price is high. So they export to Germany at high prices, maximizing their profit. It is difficult to compete against that with pumped storage, which has only ~60% yield.

     – Battery storage at consumers may solve major part of the issue.
    Prices of batteries go down fast. Some predict that in a few years near all rooftop solar installations will be sold with battery storage.
    So will the ~35 pumped storage facilities that the Germans built, ever make a profit?? Hence some wanted to close, but the regulator prevented that (paying them for staying standby).

Considering these distortons regarding a factual matter in a cultural similar country, I question myself how distorted my/our view towards other countries with a real different culture is?
Anyway, it rises my understanding a little about how USA could start a contra-productive war in Iraq. That war was a great help for Al-Quaeda as it multiplied its active followers by a factor ~100..

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 6, 2014

Low absolute noise limits are rejected by every wind developer I have ever interacted with.

1000′ setbacks from homes and 55dBa Leq (hourly average) is what they ask for and routinely receive across the US.

Wind developers ignore VESTAS’ documents all the time including the 500m safety zone VESTAS established for their employees. In many places in Michigan a turbine maintenance employee would have to run 6 or 700 feet PAST a non-participating household to reach the safety perimeter in case of turbine failure.

That is the reality.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 6, 2014


We have here many wind turbines within 50meters from the farmhouse (often owned by the farmer).
At the city of Zoetermeer they are within 50meters from factories and a high/big one ~100meters from houses…

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 6, 2014

Phantom noise….

Is that what the US DOE discovered and then replicated in this study? Phantom noise?

“Impulsive noise,such that observed with the MOD-I, is identified with short, transient pulses that can contain considerable acoustic energy. Tonal acoustic energy, in the areas of Figure 7-1 indicated by the vertical dashed lines, which transcends the rotational and broadband regions, is an indication that a rotor is undergoing periodic, transient lift fluctuations. Impulsive noise generally tends to be the most annoying because it dominates all other sources because of its high degree of phase coherency and radiation efficiency. From Figure 7-1, we see that the peak levels of acoustic energy reside in the low audible and what is normally thought of as subaudible «20 Hz) frequency ranges. The presence of short-period, transient blade loads will increase the levels of discrete or tonal radiation in the higher rotational harmonics, usually peaking in the 10-30 Hz range.”

Note that the bulk of the annoyance of your “phantom noise” is below 20Hz. The breathtaking part of this revelation is that wind developers insist on basing noise standards on the dBa scale which by design excludes the vast majority of energy below 20Hz. And then they want that noise to be measure on an hourly average which averages away the impulsive nature of the most problematic noise.

One will never detect “phantom noise” when one sets one’s meter to the “ignore phantom noise” setting, will one?


Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 6, 2014

And yet VESTAS indicates a 500m safety perimeter?

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 6, 2014

That’s curious:

“There are several rules that determine how far wind turbines are located from residences.83 A building permit is required in order to erect a large wind turbine. Developers must demonstrate that their future wind turbine will not exceed yearly average noise limits of 47 dB(A) during the day and 41 dB(A) during the night at the nearest dwelling.There are also setback requirements of one rotor diameter to significantly reduce the chance of injury in case of turbine blade failure. Wind turbines must also cause no significant effects on birds, natural reserves, and protected landscapes. Setback distances are primarily determined by the noise limits, and the Netherlands government is intending to review their methods for measuring sound from wind turbines shortly.

 This generally results in a wind turbine setback distance of 4x the height to the hub of the turbine form nearby homes.84 There are also regulations regarding shadow flicker, but it is generally considered not to be a problem at a distance to reach the noise limit.”

Not sure how you comply with noise standards at 50m when most turbines have a noise output of 106dBa at the source.

What do you make of Denmark?


Denmark has the highest wind energy capacity per capita, per land area, and per GDP in the world.78 In Denmark, it is recommended that wind turbine setback distances from building be at least 4 times the total height of the turbine.79,80

The Danish Energy Agency recommends that no house be exposed to shadow flicker more than 10 hours per year.80 If the amount of shadow flicker exceeds the maximum recommended amount, the wind turbine owner may be required to place a timer on the turbines to shut them off during the times of the day subject to shadow flicker. Regarding turbine lighting, the Denmark’s Civil Aviation Administration requires mandatory lights for airplanes on all turbines over 150 meters (492 feet) and on all turbines over 100 meters (328 feet) near airports and flight paths. These lights may possibly be viewed as a nuisance by residents, but are no different from lights on television or radio towers, and thus require no additional regulation.80 This information is included in the “Wind Turbines in Denmark” booklet, published by the Danish Energy Agency, which includes extensive discussion of possible effects of wind turbines on their surroundings, including noise, shadow, reflection, and housing values.80 It states that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be carried out for all wind facilities involving turbines over 80 meters (262 feet) tall or more than three turbines. The EIA will check for both impacts for the environment as well as compliance with laws regarding wind energy.80

Noise from wind turbines is given special attention in Denmark. The Danish Ministry of the Environment created an “Order on Noise from Wind Turbines.” 81 This amendment is legally binding and establishes noise limits for sparsely populated residential areas, built-up areas, and recreational areas ranging from 37-44 dB(A) for wind speeds at 6- 8 meters per second (20- 26 feet/second). The areas with greater occupation and recreational areas have lower limits for noise from wind turbines. The Danish Energy Agency report acknowledges that wind turbines emit both low frequency noise and infrasound, but these noises appear to be well under the legal limit and no more annoying than high frequency noises, and are thus not specifically addressed in relation to wind turbines.82

Municipalities are in charge of the planning for wind turbines up to 150 meters (492 feet) tall, with assistance from the Wind Turbine Secretariat in the Agency for Spatial and Environmental Planning.80 The municipalities work closely with both members from the public

and wind turbine owners or sponsors. The municipalities create guidelines and requirements regarding turbine siting that fall within Danish law parameters and take into account residences, the environment, historical elements, the view, agriculture, and other factors.

Other than small turbines, no turbines may be constructed without the approval of the municipality. If a project involves more than three turbines or turbines more than 80 meters (262 feet) tall, an EIA must be completed for permitting. Even without an EIA, neighbors must be informed of the project ahead of time. In order to assist municipalities, a website is updated by the Wind Turbine Secretariat with frequently asked questions, a summary of siting issues, a model and time frame for the siting process, and existing governmental regulations. Typically, all wind turbines over 25 meters (82 feet) high must be placed at least four times their height from all residences. Generally, wind turbines are prohibited from locations within three kilometers (1.86 miles) of the coast unless special permission is granted due to the positive environment for wind energy. Areas with wide, open, flat spaces are generally considered better for wind facility development than areas with many hills, as large turbines do not overpower the existing landscape in a flat area. Municipalities often require grouping of wind turbines and geometric arrangements to reduce the visual impacts.80

People living within six times the total height of the wind turbine may request to have their property assessed for loss of value due to proximity of the wind turbines.80 If the value of their property is determined to have decreased by a minimum of 1%, they may be reimbursed for their loss. The value of the property is assessed by experts in property value, and if they determine a significant decrease in the property value the wind facility developer is required to pay the difference. There are other incentives for developing wind facilities, including feed-in tariffs and the option for local residents to purchase the wind turbines.”

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Mar 6, 2014

Like these?

It would appear to be a pretty common practice in this area (Plug this into Google) –  52.557237, 5.580469


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 6, 2014

Or utilities in neighbor countries use the Germans to buy cheap electricity (when German price is low; often) and sell expensive (when German whole sale market price is high; rare these days).

Hence maximizing their profit.

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 6, 2014

That is beyond belief and defies both Vestas and Dutch setback language.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 6, 2014


The interconnections with other countries benefit Denmark as:
 – it can sell electricity to those countries, e.g. if the wind turbines produce more than 100% Denmark itself needs (which will occur about 100days/year in 2020) so the wholesale price will be low.
 – it can easily buy electricity the moment Denmark produces not enough, so the Danish whole sale price is higher than that of e.g. Norway.

This implies that those interconnections contribute to a more stable electricity price.

On average those also contribute to a lower electricity price.

If the capacity of the interconnections is not enough, you get very high price peaks (as you had in Vermont this winter), and at days with overproduction one has to dump electricity or shut off wind turbines.
Both situations are adverse for Denmark..


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Mar 6, 2014


Nice picture!
It shows exactly what I meant. You find the same also in other provinces in the north of NL, though Flevoland has by far the most (less dense populated, less tourism).

Seems you are far better with google than me!


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