Karlsruhe Institute of Technology: Renewable energies: mountain panorama with wind turbine undesirable

Whether in the foothills of the Alps, low mountain ranges or the seashore – in Germany’s most beautiful landscapes, the expansion of wind power often meets with rejection. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), together with partners from Great Britain and Denmark, have investigated what exactly this means for the energy transition. In the trade journal Patterns, they calculate that the cost of a kilowatt hour could increase by up to seven cents and CO 2 emissions by up to 200 grams. ( DOI: 10.1016 / j.patter.2021.100301 )

Wind energy is of outstanding importance for the energy transition in Germany – with currently around 24 percent, its share of total gross electricity generation is significantly higher than that of all other renewable energies, according to the Federal Statistical Office. “In order to achieve our climate goals, it is important to expand these capacities even further and to replace as much coal-fired electricity as possible,” says Professor Wolf Fichtner from the Institute for Industrial Management and Industrial Production (IIP) at KIT. “In the scenic regions, however, that is rejected by many.” What exactly does that mean for the costs of the energy transition and for CO 2-Balance of Germany’s municipalities means that a team at KIT calculated together with researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the Technical University of Denmark.

Quantify the rejection of wind energy

The basis for the calculations is a database in which thousands of test persons rated the beauty of German landscapes according to standardized criteria. “For Great Britain it has already been shown that the rejection of wind power expansion in communities in beautiful landscapes is significantly higher than in communities with less beautiful landscapes,” says Max Kleinebrahm from the IIP. “If you follow this for Germany and replace the qualitative factor of a negative attitude with a development scenario without wind power, then you can precisely project the additional costs to be expected of doing without wind turbines.” Another techno-economically optimized scenario for the energy system conversion served as a benchmark who succeeded with local wind power.

This comparison was carried out for 11 131 municipalities in Germany with a perspective up to the year 2050. If the expansion of wind energy generation in the most beautiful landscapes were not implemented, electricity generation within individual municipalities could result in additional costs of up to seven cents per kilowatt hour, while CO 2-Emissions could increase by up to 200 grams per kilowatt hour compared to the wind power scenario. “Instead of wind energy, other forms of renewable energy generation such as solar energy or bioenergy would have to be expanded more strongly,” says Jann Michael Weinand (IIP), one of the main authors of the study. “With solar energy, however, there are higher system integration costs, which are responsible for a large part of the surcharge.” Wind energy could only be completely replaced for local power generation in very few cases. Usually electricity has to be imported instead, which leads to the comparatively high CO 2 emissions.

Participation as a solution

The researchers involved cannot offer a quick solution to the fundamental conflict of objectives between landscape protection and climate-friendly power generation with wind turbines. However, they see their study as a contribution to possible compensation. “We want to provide the necessary data so that those responsible on site can make knowledge-based decisions,” says Fichtner. In order to achieve an even deeper understanding of the interactions between local wind power resistances, scenic beauty and the overall system impact, further analyzes are also planned.

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