16 Aug 2023, 13:47
Benjamin Wehrmann

Industry expects “lasting solar boom” as farmers turn against German govt's expansion rules

Clean Energy Wire

The German government has set the course for a “lasting solar power boom” in the country with its new solar power package of legislation, industry lobby group BSW Solar has said. Climate action, households and businesses all will benefit from the proposed dismantling of barriers in access to solar PV installation sites, grid connections and support payments, the association argued. In the first half of 2023, Germany already installed 64 percent more new solar PV capacity than during the same period in the previous year, with the growth rate of roof-mounted installations (135%) and for small plug-in solar arrays (990%) being even higher. However, BSW Solar said there is still ample potential to further speed up the roll-out of solar power, especially regarding roof-mounted installations on company buildings and large ground-mounted solar farms. To achieve the national renewable power expansion goals, the buildout would have to happen three times faster in the coming years. The solar power lobby group welcomed the removal of bureaucratic hurdles for installing solar panels, and that the government worked towards providing more space for new installations through co-use on agricultural land.

However, the German Farmers’ Association (DBV) warned that the new rules could lead to a loss of acceptance of the technology in rural areas which could threaten the country’s energy transition plans. "The planned obligation to tolerate power lines is constitutionally questionable, tantamount to expropriation without compensation, and disregards the rights of farmers and landowners," DBV secretary general Bernhard Krüsken said, adding that “coercion has never increased acceptance.” Energy industry group BDEW explicitly welcomed the new obligation to tolerate power lines to connect scattered installations with the grid.”The solar package rightfully focuses on agricultural land whose soils only allow low agricultural yields,” the energy industry lobby group said, adding that changes to inheritance taxation rules for agricultural PV use areas could increase acceptance among farmers.

The farmers’ association said it estimates that at least 80,000 hectares of agricultural land will be lost due to new solar power installations. Better concepts for reconciling solar power use with farming activities could remedy this problem, the DBV said. By contrast, agriculture minister Cem Özdemir emphasised that the legislative proposals take farmers’ interests into account, for example by mandating a higher share of roof-mounted installations, which relieved the pressure on farmland.

Germany’s government cabinet adopted the new law to simplify the process for property owners and renters to install solar devices on balconies, roofs, terrasses and facades. Reducing the amount of bureaucracy involved in application procedures is one of the proposed changes highlighted by Germany’s economy and climate ministry (BMWK). The government is also trying to incentivise solar farm construction on agricultural land, and will increase the remuneration for generating energy from photovoltaics.

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