Germany’s Renewable Energy Disaster – Part 2: Wind & Solar Deemed ‘Ecological Disasters’

Germany’s wind and solar experiment has failed: the so-called ‘Energiewende’ (energy transition) has turned into an insanely costly debacle.

German power prices have rocketedblackouts and load shedding are the norm; and its idyllic countryside has been turned into an industrial wasteland, with its forests, no exception (see above).

Hundreds of billions of euros have been squandered on subsidies to wind and solar, all in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide gas emissions. However, that objective has failed too: CO2 emissions continue to rise.

But you wouldn’t know it from what appears in the mainstream media. Its reticence to report on what’s actually going on in Germany probably stems from the adage about success having many fathers, and failure being an orphan. Having promoted Germany as the example of how we could all ‘transition’ to an all RE future, it’s pretty hard for them to suck it up and acknowledge that they were taken for fools.

Germany provided the perfect opportunity to prove that a modern, industrial economy could run on sunshine and breezes and, therefore, ditch fossil fuels, altogether. However, the wind and solar industries are shrinking, as subsidies are slashed; old coal-fired power plants are being refurbished; and dozens of new coal-fired plants are being built. On any sensible reckoning, the Energiewende has been a monumental failure.

Over a series of four posts, STT covers the causes and consequences of Germany’s renewable energy disaster.

The work which we reproduce was done by Vernunftkraft, a group of German economists, energy experts, engineers and technicians, medical professionals and ecologists. Their full study is available to be downloaded in PDF here.

This post, the second in the series, follows on from the first and focuses on Germany’s unfolding ecological calamity.

Compendium for a Sensible Energy Policy
Vernunftkraft
12 June 2018

3. Ecological Aspects

No discussion about the construction of wind turbines and no energy policy document of the last federal government can avoid the suggestion that the Energiewende might help avert the dangers of climate change. This is why the last German government continually described the EEG as a central instrument of climate protection. The thesis – often presented in a shrill, moralizing tone – is that the expansion of ‘renewable energies’ is a human obligation in view of the impending global warming apocalypse. Particularly perfidious forms of this thesis even suggest that not expanding wind power plants in Germany would mean that we would soon be dealing
with ‘billions of climate refugees’.

But regardless of the intensity, frequency and variety of ways in which the thesis of ‘climate protection through wind power’ is presented, the idea remains fundamentally wrong.

The reasons are as follows:

  1. Germany contributes approximately 2.1 % of global CO2 emissions. No matter what policy is pursued in Germany, this share will fall to well below 2 % by 2030, because growth in China and India alone will exceed our total CO2 emissions. The total annual CO2 emissions in Germany are roughly the same as the volume that is added every 19 months in China. If Germany ceased to exist tomorrow, China alone would compensate for the loss of CO2 emissions after just 1.5 years. In other words, it is impossible to materially influence the global climate by reducing CO2 emissions in Germany.
  2. Wind power is only effective in the electricity sector; it is largely irrelevant for transport and heating. However, the climate does not care whether a CO2 molecule comes from the exhaust of a car, a wood-burning stove or the chimney of a power station. The total energy consumption is decisive. This means that a maximum of 3.1 % (see Figure 1) of 2.1 %, i.e. 0.06 % of global emissions can be influenced by German wind energy and PV systems.
  3. Anyone who thinks that a small reduction in 0.06 % of global CO2 emissions is worthy of any sacrifice must nevertheless note that even this prospect is deceptive: in fact, the expansion of wind power does not lead to any CO2 savings at all. The theoretical ideal conditions are not fulfilled (see Section 1). Conventional power plants must always be kept in reserve for when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining. These are forced into stop-go operations, and therefore become uneconomic and consume more fuel than they would have to. In addition, wind power pushes gas-fired power plants out of the market with their comparatively low CO2 emissions and thus indirectly increase the use of lignite. The upshot of all this is that wind power expansion does not yield any CO2 savings at all.
  4. Anyone who dismisses these empirical facts as transitional phenomena must at least take note of the existence of the European Emissions Trading Scheme. It defines the total emissions of all EU countries – all potential CO2 emitters in energy-related industries must acquire emission rights within this capped quota. Power generation companies are fully covered and must provide proof of this for every gram of CO2 emitted. The certificates are freely traded on stock exchanges or between the plant operators, whereby the quota is gradually reduced. The system ensures that the CO2 reduction target is met and emissions are reduced where this is most cost-effective. Any savings in the German electricity sector would result in fewer certificates being required in the German electricity sector, i.e. the price of certificates would fall. This makes it less lucrative for companies in other sectors and regions to invest in emissions prevention. To put it bluntly: Operators of Eastern European coal-fired power plants have no reason to install additional filters, as the savings on certificates are no longer worth the investment. However, this also applies to other branches of industry within Germany.
  5. However, in the end, the EU-wide fixed quota of certificates alone determines how much CO2 is emitted in Europe. A – anyway only fictitious – CO2 reduction through further wind energy plants in Germany is definitely without effect on global emissions, but only increases the costs of emission avoidance.
  6. Even if emissions trading is ignored and it is assumed that (fictitious!) CO2 savings in Germany are actually reflected in an emission reduction throughout Europe, the reaction of global supply must be taken into account. Professor Hans-Werner Sinn already made this known in 2008 as the ‘green paradox’.

Fig. 16: Quote from the ‘Neue Züricher Zeitung’ 30.03.2015
The ‘worlds most efficient turbine’ has been moth balled.

 

European countries are spending a lot of money to improve energy efficiency, expand ‘green’ electricity, build ever more fuel-efficient cars and develop technologies to reduce their demand for fossil fuels. However, this demand policy is ineffective as long as other countries do not participate and resource owners do not cut off the supply. If ‘green’ policy becomes increasingly burdensome and pushes down the price of fossil fuels, it will actually accelerate the extraction of resources, as resource owners rush to realise their assets while prices are high. To put it bluntly: if Europe curbs its appetite for fossil fuels, prices will fall and fossil fuels will be consumed more in other parts of the world. If other parts of the world also curb their appetite, the sheikhs will turn their oil reserves into money and bring it to customers as quickly as possible.

As long as the supply side is not included, any ‘climate policy’ restricted to the demand for fossil energy is either ineffective or counterproductive. The forced settlement of wind power in the forest in the name of ‘climate protection’ is indeed cynical. Forests do not participate in emissions trading and do not influence world market prices for fossil fuels – their performance is therefore not counteracted by the mechanisms described under 4) and 5). At least one hectare of forest is cleared per wind turbine and is thus permanently destroyed. Afforestation elsewhere cannot make up for this, since old trees are in every respect much more valuable than new plantations. The negative effects of global warming predicted for Germany are more frequent floods and droughts, but forest is the best form of protection against soil erosion, cleaning soil and storing water.

In the light of all this, the assertion that we urgently need this kind of energy transition to stop climate change can only be understood as a bad joke. The latter receives a deadly applause when one also assesses the tangible ecological damage that the expansion of ‘energy turning technologies’ entails.

Fig. 19: ‘Green paradox’, demand-oriented cost-cutting
policy accelerated the extraction of fossil resources.

The land consumption of ‘renewable energies’ causes biodiversity disasters 
Whether it is forest destruction, cultivation of maize for biogas plants, the destruction of habitats or the direct killing of birds and bats – the massive expansion of ‘renewable energies’ has appalling consequences, ultimately the result of their low energy density and the resulting requirement for vast areas of land.

Besides intermittency, the core problem of wind and solar energy is that it is generated in a very diffuse form. Anyone who has ridden a bike against the wind will understand: a headwind of 3 m/s makes clothes flutter a little, but hardly makes it difficult to pedal. Water, on the other hand, flowing towards us at the same speed, will wash us away. This is because the power of water is comparatively concentrated, while the power of the wind is much more diffuse. In the case of hydropower, ‘collecting from the surface’ is done by a wide system of ditches, brooks, rivers and streams. If you want to ‘capture’ the power of the wind, you have to do the tedious work of concentrating the energy yourself – requiring a multitude of collection stations and power lines to connect them. Instead of ditches, streams, and rivers wind power required 200-m-high industrial installations, pylons and wires. Inevitably, natural areas become industrialised and opportunities for retreat in nature are gradually destroyed.

The Energiewende leaves no room for nature
The doubling of the number of wind turbines since 2011 (see Figure 7) has caused considerable damage to flora and fauna. The Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research estimates that 250,000 bats are killed in Germany each year. On average, ten dead bats are found per wind turbine – among them many rare migrant species from Eastern Europe. German wind turbines are already endangering bats at the population level. In addition to deaths through direct collision and so-called barotrauma – differences in air pressure in front of and behind the wind turbines leading to internal organ injuries such as the rupture of the lungs – the siting of wind farms in forests has led to habitat losses and the loss of valuable living trees.

Not only are local populations threatened, but also migratory species, for which the wind farms on the peaks of the low mountain ranges often become a deadly barrier. Bats have a maximum of one, or in rare cases two, young (’pups’) per year. High numbers of victims cannot therefore be compensated by an increase in reproduction, which is why some entire populations are threatened with extinction. With unchecked expansion and predominantly unregulated operation of wind turbines, bat populations could collapse dramatically in coming years. This would violate the EU’s Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive, which requires all bat species to be preserved in a ‘favourable conservation status’ and largely intact natural areas to be retained for them to live in.

The Michael Otto Institute has estimated that 100,000 birds are killed every year by windfarms. Estimates of the number of unreported cases are many times higher. Under the title ‘License to kill’, the journal Naturpark dedicated a basic article to this topic. This suggested that current expansion targets for renewable energy would mean the extinction of many species, especially red kites.

A field study undertaken at Bielefeld University, also estimated what the operation of more and more wind turbines would do to bird
species, arriving at similarly dramatic conclusions. Remarkably, even common species such as the buzzard are killed so often by wind turbines that their survival can be threatened. Birds of prey are particularly affected because they are at the top of the food chain, have long lifetimes and low reproduction rates. The effects on the population therefore become visible only after a period of time.

The risk of collision is particularly high when wind turbines are erected in the breeding and feeding habitats of birds of prey. In the so-called ‘Heligoland Paper’, the state working group of bird protection authorities drew up recommendations for the distances that should be maintained between breeding grounds and wind turbines. Unfortunately, these recommendations have not been adequately integrated into the energy policy of the federal states. The expertise of Germany’s leading ornithologists has been ignored.

As early as 2011, in his award-winning article ‘From the energy transition to biodiversity disaster’, ornithologist Martin Flade described the fatal ecological effects resulting from the limited energy policy of expanding wind power, photovoltaics and biomass. Biomass power plants sprout from the ground like mushrooms, rape and maize monocultures dominate fields and farmland, accompanied by drastic reductions in the populations of plants and animals. The decline of insects and other invertebrates deprives many birds of their food base; they barely breed in intensively cultivated maize fields. Partridge, quail, lapwing, skylark and yellowhammer are rarely seen. Poverty of species, water pollution and uncontrolled methane emissions are the results of excessive biomass electricity generation.

Offshore wind farms are little better than those built on land and damage marine mammals, birds, fish and communities on the seabed.
Construction noise, particularly during driving of the piles for the foundations, can harm porpoises or drive them away. Migratory
birds are also affected. Their travel routes are interfered with, their resting and feeding areas are lost and windmill collisions are always a threat. A few years ago, a wind turbine invasion of the many forests that have been managed for decades in accordance with the principle of sustainability was still unimaginable. But huge pits are now being dug and filled with thousands of tons of reinforced concrete, with considerable effects on the ecosystem. The effects on wildlife, soils and water as well as on the aesthetics and natural harmony of hilltop landscapes are catastrophic.

Dissection and deforestation change the function of forests as habitats and have further negative consequences. Particularly susceptible animal species suffer from this – from red deer to black storks and white-tailed eagles.

Sanctioned violations of law 
The obvious infringements of German energy policy against European law, which have recently also been dealt with in legal terms, are
playing an increasingly important role in connection with the planning and implementation of energy-transition projects. Environmental and species protection are precisely regulated there and exceptions are meticulously limited.

At the heart of the legal conflict that has now broken out, which could give Germany an infringement procedure with severe penalties, is the ban on the killing of ‘particularly and strictly protected species’. The relevant exemption of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, which was recently amended in view of the desires of wind power investors and aligned with vague ‘climate protection targets’, is already obsolete.

Vernunftkraft

More tomorrow

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on How Green Is This.

  2. Where are any STT comments on the NEG developments?

  3. Peter Pronczak says:

    The photo from part 1 as reproduced from the Vernunftkraft publication looks like environmental vandalism.

    And as to droughts there are 18 designed water diversion projects around Australia dating back nearly 100 years to 1920, they divert excess river water inland for drought and flood mitigation. Designed mainly by Dr JJ Bradfield and Prof Lance Endersbee some, such as the Clarence River Scheme in Queensland, have been upgraded (2011) – these were compiled in a single publication in 2004 (CEC 1800 636 432). Gee, if sea level rise is so critical wouldn’t damming more water be helpful?
    So here we are again in a drought as if it’s never happened before, and $billions are being squandered on insane projects like wind and solar, CO2 and water allocation gambling, financial sector rip-offs (take a look at what PM Turnbull said in his 7th response in a SkyNews interview May 10, 2017 yet did nothing https://www.pm.gov.au/media/interview-kieran-gilbert-sky-news echoed by ScoMo (he was called that in the press) in April 2018 about the financial royal commission bank findings.

    EVERY LNP MP received a copy of Queensland’s National Party Leader Lawrence Springborg’s response to my inquiry in January 2016 as to why none of the water mitigation projects have been started. Seems there’s plenty of money to guarantee politicians superannuation but not for sensible environment protection and a reliable energy supply that really only progression to nuclear fusion energy can supply along with a fusion torch to create new elements from waste so we never run out of resources.

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