Wind farm in landscape symbolises wind power; Source: BMWi/Holger Vonderlind

© BMWi/Holger Vonderlind

Modern wind energy installations can transform the power of wind into electricity. Easily the most common type is the three-blade horizontal-axis turbine, which transmits rotation caused by the wind to a generator which feeds electrical power into the electricity grid.

In Germany, wind turbines with a total capacity of 49.5 gigawatts were in use at the end of 2016. In the coming years, wind energy will continue to offer by far the greatest potential for expansion of all the various renewables. Whereas the expansion of onshore wind energy use will particularly take place via the substitution of older installations at windy sites with more modern turbines with a greater energy output (repowering), there is still a lot of work to be done to build up offshore wind power capacities. One important step towards the use of offshore wind energy was the commissioning of Germany’s first offshore wind farm, the Alpha Ventus test field; its construction was part-funded by the Federal Environment Ministry; at this site, the RAVE (Research at Alpha Ventus) Research Initiative is conducting many different research projects into central aspects of offshore wind energy development. Further progress has been made on the expansion of the offshore connections. At the end of 2016, offshore wind energy installations with a total capacity of 4.1 GW were connected to the grid. This means that the expansion target set by the Renewable Energy Sources Act of 6.5 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020 is within our grasp.

In the field of wind energy, the research funding provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy aims to reduce costs, boost yields and ensure reliable operation of the wind energy installations (cf. (in German) funding announcement for the 6th Energy Research Programme (PDF: 1.12 MB)). The integration of the electricity generated by wind turbines into the public grids is of crucial importance for the future expansion of wind power. This means that questions of the grid connection of offshore wind farms, load and generation management, wind-energy-specific aspects of storage and improvements in wind forecasts are also of relevance to research. With a view to shaping the expansion of wind energy in a green and nature-friendly manner, a role is also played by accompanying ecological research.

The wind energy industry and research institutes in Germany can draw on outstanding research infrastructure, not least due to the support offered by large-scale test rigs for rotor blades, nacelles and load-bearing structures, and also thanks to the offshore research platforms and the Alpha Ventus research wind farm.