Utilising wind power is crucial to the successful implementation of the energy transition. Despite comparatively poor wind conditions, it made the largest contribution to electricity generation from renewable energy sources in 2021. This means that it remained the most important energy medium in the German electricity mix, ahead of lignite, even in this rather windless year. Wind turbines on land (onshore) generated about three quarters of the wind power, while the turbines at sea (offshore) generated one quarter.
Incentives and grants of around 83 million euros
Research institutions and companies are continuously working to further reduce the cost of power from wind energy and to increase the reliability of the plants. In 2021, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) funded a total of 472 ongoing projects with around 83 million euros. Furthermore, the BMWK newly approved 84 research projects with a funding budget of around 44 million euros.
The BMWK's funding has a broad base. The core objective is to develop innovative holistic solutions for the challenges of the energy transition and bring them quickly to market.
Powerful and reliable plants
Research projects are to contribute to making future plants even more powerful and reliable in order to reduce electricity generation costs. A higher number of full-load hours also contributes to this. Scientists are therefore working on projects to optimise the systems technology, including elements of the tower, gears, generator and power electronics. A challenge here: As the size of modern wind turbines grows, more and more components are reaching the limits of their resilience. New materials are therefore central to effective and cost-efficient plant construction and operation. For example, they ensure lower weight or higher reliability.
A holistic system design is also particularly important: As early as the design phase, designers should consider the complexity of production, erection, operation, dismantling and recycling and how the plants can be integrated into the power grid. Suitable locations for wind power are also the subject of research projects, because windy and easily accessible areas are becoming scarce. The expansion is therefore increasingly taking place in terrain with difficult wind conditions.
Offshore: Innovative logistics sought after
Logistics and maintenance pose major challenges for offshore wind farms: In the event of a defect, they can only be reached with great effort, resulting in high costs. This is why innovative grid connection and logistics concepts are important, which take into account the availability of the plants, the transport of personnel and material as well as pooling, operation and servicing.
Power from wind is becoming cheaper and cheaper
Since 2010, power generation costs from onshore wind power have fallen by 56 per cent and from offshore wind power by 48 per cent. Technical developments in wind turbines – such as increased hub heights and larger rotor blades – have led to significantly lower electricity prices in the last ten years. This is apparent from the current report "Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2020" by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA analysed worldwide data from 20,000 projects from 2020.
Wind turbines shape the landscape in more and more regions of the world. The latest report by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) reports that by the end of 2021, 837 gigawatts of wind power output was installed onshore and offshore worldwide. More than a third of this, 338 gigawatts to be precise, is located in China, followed by the USA with around 176 gigawatts and Germany with almost 63 gigawatts.