Facts about German Wind Turbines and the Financing
Today, our group went on a renewable energy tour. We stopped at a wind farm on the edge of the town of Freiamt in the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany. The farm has been in the Schneider family for the last 300 years. Originally, the farm hosted cows and timber, but a few years ago the farmers decided change was needed. They found milk production was labor intensive and not worth the minimal monetary return, and timber farming alone was not enough to support their farm. The farmers decided to construct wind turbines on their farm.
The Schnieders’ farm is situated on top the hills, 700 meters from the valley floor, and is a perfect spot for a wind turbine. The farmers entered into business with a cooperative to help finance the project. The cooperative gathered people interested in investing in wind power and becoming co-owners of wind turbines. The co-op was very successful and collected enough money from the now co-owners to build the wind turbine. The turbine was constructed in 2001 within a week. The project as a whole cost around 2 million euros, and required each co-owner to invest 3,000 to 20,000 euros. Now, the turbine creates 2.7 million kilowatts of electricity per year. The energy is then sold to the grid and supplies 19,000 people with energy for the year. The farmers’ decision paid off financially, they now receive income from renting out their land to the co-op and since they are co-owners as well they receive money from the energy sold to the grid.
Since the first turbine was such a success, the farm rented out their land and became co-owners of another, larger turbine. The newer wind turbine is only a few years old. The turbine stands 135 meters tall and the blades have a diameter of 82 meters, for comparison, the turbine built in 2001 is 85 meters high with a diameter of 70 meters. The extra height and area of the blades allow the larger turbine to create more energy. The larger turbine did cost more, around 3.7 million euros. The same cooperative also helped finance the turbine with 193 co-owners. The leader of the cooperative said they never had any trouble trying to finance a wind turbine and in this case, they had 40 investors they had to turn down because they had met their monetary goal. He stated the return on investment was around 6%, and although this is low he said it was easy to get investors after the global recession because investors were looking for less risky investments.
This wind farm was incredible to me. I found it fascinating that one wind turbine could power so many homes, that each turbine was basically silent, and all the farmers and other co-owners were so invested in transitioning to renewable energy. Hearing the farmers’ story and the leader of the cooperative talk about the ease of building and using a wind turbine made me think about how behind America is on changing our ways. American politics and large lobbies have truly held the United States back from allowing independent partnerships help provide renewable energy to citizens. But, the same is seen in Germany with large lobbies and politicians pushing away from renewable energy, however, they have citizens that wanted to make a change and did so. Now, it is the United States’ citizens’ turn to realize the harmful effects of non-renewables and have the initiative to create change just like the Schnieders.