News Digest Item
16 Oct 2018

Land set to become “new currency” of Germany’s energy transition – study

Clean Energy Wire

The demand for land to construct wind turbines and solar power arrays is set to replace monetary costs as the central restrictive factor for renewable power expansion and will become “the new currency” of Germany’s energy transition, the Energiewende, a study commissioned by the environmental organisation WWF Germany has found. “Germany has enough space to completely cover its power demand with renewable sources and adequately consider environmental protection at the same time,” WWF Germany’s Michael Schäfer told journalists in Berlin. 
According to the study carried out by the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut), Germany will on average need 2.5 percent of the land area available in each administrative district to comply with its 2050 renewables expansion scenario, and this area could be reduced to only 2 percent if a greater focus was put on solar power expansion rather than building more onshore wind turbines. “Every form of energy generation has its downsides,” which for renewables was their demand for land and resources, Schäfer said, adding that renewable power still was the by far most environmentally friendly form of power production. 
Felix Matthes of the Öko-Institut said “the square metres used and the length of connection lines have to become factors as important as the price per kilowatt hour (kWh)” when determining the quality of a given renewable power project, but spatial requirements practically played no role in official planning procedures today. “The installation’s contribution to the entire energy system will be more relevant than maximising an individual project’s profitability,” Matthes said. He argued that a scenario with a much greater emphasis on solar power expansion allowed for more power consumption near the location of production and thus reduced the space required at marginally higher costs. “It is crucial that we decide on our future renewables expansion path soon,” Matthes said, adding that decisions made in the 2020s would determine the structure of Germany’s energy system in the 2040s.

Clarification: The WWF initially said a focus on solar power could reduce the land demand for renewables in Germany to 2.3 percent by 2050. It later corrected its own statement, saying the figure could be brought down to just 2 percent.

Find a WWF press release in German here.

See the CLEW factsheets on onshore and offshore wind power and on solar power in Germany for background.

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