Utilising wind power is crucial to the successful implementation of the energy transition. In 2022, it once again made the largest contribution to electricity generation from renewable energies. It thus remained the most important energy source in the German electricity mix, ahead of lignite. At the end of 2022, onshore wind turbines generated a good 90 percent of Germany's wind power.
Incentives and grants of around 89 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 2022, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) funded a total of 469 ongoing projects with around 89 million euros. Furthermore, the BMWK newly approved 97 research projects with a funding budget of around 60 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 rotor blades, drive train, 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. Research on environmental conditions such as wind, waves or soil also plays a decisive role here. 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
Between 2010 and 2021, the cost of electricity from onshore wind power has fallen by 68 percent and offshore by 60 percent. Technical developments in wind turbines – such as increased hub heights, increased reliability and larger rotor blades – have led to significantly lower electricity prices in the last ten years. Economies of scale, competition and experience have also contributed. This is apparent from the current report "Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2021" by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA analyzed data from 21,000 projects worldwide for this purpose. In Germany, not only have the first offshore wind farms already been subsidized without government subsidies, but companies are now even paying billions for the opportunity to build offshore wind farms. These are used to reduce electricity prices, among other things.
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 2022, 906 gigawatts of wind power output was installed onshore and offshore worldwide. This corresponds to growth of 9 percent compared with the previous year. China, the USA, Brazil, Germany and Sweden have built the most new plants in 2022.