Wind power | Facts

Wind power makes sense

The transition to a new energy era is well on its way. In 2019, wind power overtook coal to become the main energy source on land and sea for the first time in Germany. And that’s a change we welcome. As a result, emissions from climate-damaging greenhouse gasses were significantly reduced and lessened Germany’s dependence on raw material imports. So far, so good! But …

… there is still talk about the potential danger to people, animals, and the environment. We want to address these issues.

Wind power: Its contribution to climate protection?

First, the good news: Unlike coal or gas-fired power plants, wind turbines do not emit carbon dioxide (CO2). Wind power doesn’t need fossil fuels, so there’s no combustion that could release greenhouse gases. Every kilowatt-hour of wind energy helps reduce global CO2 emissions as compared to electricity from conventional power plants.

Here are some impressive statistics

A modern wind turbine with a capacity of 3 megawatts generates approx. 14,500,000 kilowatt-hours per year and saves 9,671 tonnes of greenhouse gases. Or to put in another way, this is the same amount of CO2 that would be generated by flying 30 times back and forth between Berlin and New York. Wind turbines are also clean: unlike fossil fuels, they do not produce harmful particles, sulphur or nitrogen oxides. Did you know that one modern wind turbine (depending on location and power) can supply 2,000 to 3,500 households with climate-neutral electricity?

Wind power: What’s the energy balance?

Producing wind turbines also requires energy. Only then can they, in turn, produce climate-neutral electricity. But:

It compensates for the amount of energy used in its production in about half a year, through its own electricity production (depending on the location and performance of the plant) This means that during a 20-year period of operation, a wind turbine produces up to 70 times as much energy as is needed for its production. That also includes the energy requirements for operation and final disposal. Even better: in terms of life cycle assessment, a plant generates up to 90 times more energy than it consumes, when the recycling of wind turbine materials is taken into account.

Wind turbines: What happens when a turbine’s time is up?

As a rule of thumb, wind turbines produce green energy for at least 20 years and often even longer. And then? What do the recycling options look like? The above-ground components are dismantled and recycled. The concrete and steel are taken away up to a depth of one meter. This ensures that the land can again be used for agricultural purposes. Everything is possible, but it’s still a large undertaking. That’s why the money for dismantling must be factored into the construction of a plant. For companies, it’s a must.

Wind power and electricity prices

What is the correlation between wind power and prices? All those planning wind energy plants must first apply for EEG funding with the Federal Network Agency. The reason for this: Only the most economical projects are awarded a contract. In recent years, funding has been made at around 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt-hour. What about the stock market? Here, the price was usually between 3 and 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. The support from EEG only pays the difference of 2 to 3 cents.

The fact is that without wind energy, the overall stock market price would be even higher. This is because when electricity from renewable energy is fed in at high levels, the stock market price begins to suddenly drop.

Wind turbines: Do they endanger birds and insects?

Roads, houses, or factories have an impact on our landscape. Wind turbines are no different. That’s why there are strict environmental protection requirements to ensure that the changes in the landscape are as small as possible.
In 2019, the media reported that wind turbines had negatively impacted insects and birds in particular. In their calculation, the German Aerospace Centre in Germany stated that billions of insects were killed due to wind turbines. That would be losses of 1,200 tonnes per year.

However, conservationists such as the NABU have a different view. In German forests alone, 400,000 tons of insects are eaten by birds every year. In the meantime, the increased use of pesticides, urbanisation and overall climate change have been identified as the primary causes of the sharp decline of insect populations. The fact is that some species of birds of prey actually collide with wind turbines. Of course, we want to avoid this and pay attention to planning and approval procedures for breeding sites, habitats, and bird flight routes. If these are endangered, we will ensure that new habitats are created even before construction begins. Birds and bats seem to like it and accept the offer.

Of course, we plan all measures together with professionals, nature conservation authorities, and associations. It’s an issue we take very seriously. And what about birds colliding with wind turbines in Germany? According to experts, it’s about 100,000 a year. In comparison, glass building facades kill about 115 million birds each year nationwide, and 70 million die on the road.

Wind turbines: How loud are they?

What’s impressive is that in terms of noise emissions, a modern wind turbine still falls well below the allowed limit, even during strong gusts of wind. Even from a distance of 200 meters, the sound level is below 50 decibels (as compared to phone calls, which have 70). For residents, things get quieter still: wind turbines must maintain a distance of at least 500 metres from residential buildings. Even under the best of circumstances, absolute silence is hard to achieve: everyday noises from traffic and weather conditions are louder than those made by turbines.

The following chart shows how loud 50 decibels are compared to other sources of noise.

Wind turbines: What about infrasound?

What exactly is infrasound? It’s a sound spectrum with very low frequencies. The tones are low and have a frequency of 20 Hertz. As a result, they are usually not noticed or picked up by the human ear. Studies have concluded that infrasound in the vicinity of wind turbines is well below the threshold of hearing and perceptibility. Wind also generates infrasound and on a larger scale.

Wind turbines: Why do they blink at night?

Because it is still mandatory to alert aircraft and helicopters that might be dangerously close to them in the dark. At the moment, they blink permanently, but soon a new technique will be applied, where the lights only go on when an aircraft is nearby. The system is called demand-based night marking and detects approaching flying objects and only then switches on the lights.

We are currently equipping new wind farms with this innovative technology and will upgrade older plants by mid-2021. Then we can achieve our goal of reducing nighttime light by up to 95 %.

Wind turbines: Why do they sometimes stand still even on windy days?

It is strange, but there are some reasons that make sense. During exceptionally strong winds, the turbines sometimes have to be switched off for a while for their protection. On exceptionally hot or windy days, they have to stop due to a bottleneck in the power grid or overloading. To prevent this, the electricity grid will be expanded in order to absorb more energy. Moreover, older, non-sustainable energy producers like coal-fired pans will be taken off the grid, making more space for green wind power electricity.

But there are even more reasons for non-spinning turbines, one of the most common simply being maintenance. They can also be shut down during the mating season of certain birds or weather conditions. Hunting habits of birds and bats are also a factor.

Another interesting reason is that wind turbines cast a long shadow in the sun. And when the spinning rotors throw a shadow on residential buildings for more than 30 minutes a day, they are shut down for a while.

We hope we could answer some of your questions. If you would like to find out more, our team is looking forward to hearing from you.


Astrid Marianna Lampe


Dr. Sascha Schröder


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