The tide is turning in Bavaria for wind power

A gentle breeze picks up when Roland Ahne points to a hill covered with fir trees, overlooking the cornfields. It is there in the heart of Bavaria that the municipality of Mindelheim, with 15,500 inhabitants, would like to see four wind turbines running one day. The city council voted in favor of the project last spring. But in this conservative region, the obstacles are considerable.

Bavaria, behind in terms of wind turbines

Roland Ahne sits on the municipal council, responsible for energy issues. Wind power in Mindelheim? The case was not easy. The elected Social Democrat (SPD) campaigned for a long time for the development of renewables in the municipality. But it was necessary to wait for the war in Ukraine to complete convincing the mayor, Stephan Winter, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian conservative party, long opposed to renewable energies in general, to wind turbines in particular.

The largest Land in Germany by surface area, Bavaria today only has a thousand wind turbines compared to three times as many for the small Saxony-Anhalt, at the top of the national ranking. Bavaria is quite simply the worst student in the country in this area.

Double pressure from industrialists and the change of majority in Berlin

For the region’s electricity producers, however, there is urgency. They are calling for 2,000 additional wind motors by 2040, to stabilize production. In Munich, the regional government has also begun to change, under the double pressure of industrialists and the change of majority in Berlin. In mid-June, the government of Olaf Scholz – associated with the Greens – adopted a bill providing that, by 2032, 2% of the surface of the country must be devoted to wind turbines.

In Bavaria, this will first go through a change in the law. “We are only waiting for one thing to launch the project, and that is that our dear Minister-President (president of the regional executive, editor’s note) fulfills its promise, and finally adopts the law which will bring down the 10H rule”, summarizes Roland Ahne.

The 10H rule

The 10H rule mentioned by the local elected official is this Bavarian exception, adopted in 2014 by Munich, at a time when the CSU feared losing the absolute majority in the regional Parliament under the pressure of the far right. “The 10H rule says that a distance of ten times the height of a wind turbine must be kept between it and the nearest dwelling, summarizes Michael Egger, head of the town planning department of Mindelheim. Of course, this is the reason why no more wind turbines are built in Bavaria. »

A hundred kilometers further east, in Munich, the regional federation of energy and water (VBEW) also denounces the political obstacles to the development of wind power. “What can be criticized for our regional government is that it has awakened in people the feeling that wind turbines are bad, that they should be built as far away as possible from houses, explains Detlef Fischer, president of the VBEW federation. So, of course, no one wanted a wind turbine close to home anymore! »

The war in Ukraine made things happen

But in Bavaria too, the explosion in the cost of energy with the war in Ukraine is shaking things up. According to recent polls, 85% of inhabitants are now in favor of renewable energies. Gone are the days when state leaders talked about“giant asparagus planted in the landscape”.

Especially since the expectations of companies are colossal. “Bavarian entrepreneurs are really scared, summarizes Sören Schöbel, energy specialist at the Technical University of Munich. Fear of being overtaken, also at the technological level, which is why I think that the development of renewables will gain momentum in Bavaria”.

Many local investors are interested

“Many local investors are interested in the project, says Roland Ahne. First, there is Tricor. And then our own local electricity supply company. » At Tricor, a manufacturer of industrial cardboard used in particular to package engines for the automotive industry, the boss quickly made his calculations. At the current rate, the energy budget could quickly increase from 2.5 to 7.5% of production costs.

This threatens the profitability of the production site. “For a long time, the business community was skeptical of renewable energies, considered expensive and unprofitable, recalls Detlef Fischer. But now the demand seems insatiable. »

small steps

One year from the next regional elections, Bavaria is making progress – in small steps – on the thorny issue of wind turbines. At the end of August, the regional government promised 1,000 new wind turbines in the years to come. But in his televised address, the head of the region still refused to announce the lifting of the 10 a.m. rule, which still blocks most projects. Like in Mindelheim.


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