New rules on wind turbine lighting intended to assuage critics in Germany
Clean Energy Wire
The German Bundesrat, the council of state governments, has greenlighted a new directive on wind turbine illumination that would allow operators to turn off hazard warning lights for air traffic during the night if no aircraft are around. "We're almost there – the non-stop flashing of wind turbines is coming to an end," said economy minister Peter Altmaier. According to the directive, hazard warning lights will only be activated when aircraft are approaching and no longer from sunset to sunrise, a move intended to increase the turbines' acceptance among nearby residents. The new regulation still needs approval by the government before it can enter into effect. The Bundesrat said the directive implements standards by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and allows turbines to react to transponder signals sent out by aircraft rather than relying on their own inbuilt radar systems alone.
The German Wind Energy Association (BWE) welcomed the state governments' decision but cautioned that equipping up to 17,500 turbines with new technology would still take a lot of time and might be complicated by regulatory hurdles. "What's important is that the retrofitting deadlines remain realistic and practical for operators," warned BWE head Hermann Albers.
Public acceptance of onshore wind power projects has become a hotly debated issue in Germany, where construction of new turbines fell to the lowest level in 20 years in 2019. Many projects are held up due to licensing challenges, often with respect to aviation safety, and because of lawsuits filed by local interest groups that try to halt construction on environmental grounds. However, despite the slump in expansion, most people in the country remain fundamentally in favour of the renewable energy source, with about three-quarters saying they back wind power as an energy source and consider further expansion of the technology to be important.