Kind mit einem kleinen Windrad in der Hand auf einer Wiese

Wind energy as the driving force behind the energy revolution

Wind energy is a renewable energy because wind is an inexhaustible resource and only a small amount of greenhouse gases is produced when it is used to generate electricity. As a wind energy pioneer, EWE has created the joint venture Alterric GmbH in cooperation with the Aloys Wobben Foundation.

This makes Alterric one of Europe’s largest green electricity producers at present. Due to its wind conditions, northwest Germany in particular offers ideal preconditions for wind farms that generate green electricity. But what exactly is wind energy? How do wind turbines work? How is the expansion of wind turbines progressing in Germany?

What is wind energy?

Under the right conditions, wind is available as a free, inexhaustible resource

Wind energy makes use of air currents to produce electricity. These air currents arise due to temperature differences in air. This is because the sun’s rays heat up air to different degrees, which leads to differences in pressure. Air currents even out these pressure differences, producing wind. Since wind energy uses sunlight, it is considered an indirect form of solar power.

No greenhouse gases, which have a negative effect on the environment, are released during operation, meaning wind energy is a sustainable energy carrier and plays a vital role in combating climate change. This is the reason EWE has been focussing on wind energy as a sustainable energy since the 1980s and built Europe’s largest wind farm at the time in East Frisia in northern Germany in 1989.

Wind energy production

Wind turbines use air flows to generate energy. The wind sets large rotation blades into motion during this process. This kinetic energy is then transformed into rotational energy and then into electric energy in a generator. The energy can then be fed into the electricity network.

The right direction and the wind turbines’ location are key to producing electricity efficiently since the more wind there is, the more electricity can be generated. The wind conditions in northwest Germany are ideal. Many wind turbines are built there for this reason. If more than three wind turbines are grouped together, this is called a wind farm.

Onshore and offshore wind energy

EWE and the Aloys Wobben Foundation have created one of the largest green electricity producers with Alterric

A distinction is made between onshore and offshore in wind turbines. Onshore refers to wind turbines on land, often located on large grassland or on agricultural fields. Northwest Germany offers ideal conditions for wind farms since it has many open spaces and the basic framework conditions to set wind farms up are already in place.

With Alterric, EWE is focussing highly successfully on onshore wind energy, especially in North Germany. Large wind turbines which form part of the enera project are also located in model regions here, where the electricity produced from renewable energies exceeds consumption almost twofold. Approaches on how to use wind energy on windless and cloudy days have been studied in the project.

Offshore refers to when wind turbines are located in the sea - i.e. off the coast. Offshore wind turbines are remarkably productive since the wind speed is very high and constant on the sea. When the wind is strong on a continuous basis, a larger amount of electricity can be generated than with onshore models. In Germany, offshore wind farms are located in the North Sea. Together with the UK, Germany is one of the main countries which use offshore wind energy.

Wind energy in Germany

Lower Saxony takes first place when it comes to expanding the use of wind energy, also thanks to EWE

Germany is one of the leading countries in harnessing wind energy, especially offshore. In 2018, renewable energies accounted for 34.9% of electricity generation in Germany, of which 17.3% corresponded to wind power, followed by photovoltaics, geothermal energy and biomass. In 2020, wind energy generated a total of 131 terawatt hours of electricity on land and at sea. The federal state of Lower Saxony is clearly ahead in the expansion of wind energy: 20% of the gross added capacity of wind power plants was installed in Lower Saxony.

Brown and hard coal still account for a large share of electricity generation today, which is why the expansion of wind power plants needs to be pushed forward. Instead, this has declined in Germany in recent years due to tendering systems and other regulations. Chances of surviving the competition are slimmer for smaller companies due to the tendering systems. This system has existed since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) in 2017.

According to the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) and the German Environment Agency, the aim is to install 71 gigawatts of wind energy by 2030, and 40 to 50% of electricity should be generated using renewable energies by 2025. The energy revolution can be achieved if the number of turbines in Germany increases and, consequently, more electricity is generated using renewable energies.

Wind energy and the energy revolution – climate-neutral into the future

Wind energy is one of the key pillars in sustainable energy supply

Wind energy is one of the renewable energies alongside hydropower, biomass, solar power and geothermal energy. These energies stand out due to their sustainability. This means that they are available at all times and are naturally replenished. In this way, following generations can continue to use these energy carriers. Unlike fossil fuels such as coal or oil, when wind power is used to generate electricity, no CO2 is emitted, which would otherwise have a negative effect on the environment. Renewable energies thus do not damage the climate.

Since wind is available everywhere and is inexhaustible, it is sustainable and can help protect the environment and advance the energy revolution. The energy revolution refers to the shift away from electricity generation harmful to the environment towards a clean, sustainable energy supply. This revolution can only be achieved if renewable energy generators such as wind energy are expanded. In contrast, electricity generation using coal or oil needs to be reduced.


EWE and Alterric - shaping the future with the wind at our backs

Stefan Dohler and Heiko Janssen present Alterric

EWE has been investing in wind power since the 1980s and built Europe’s largest wind farm back then. EWE also demonstrates this experience and its commitment to a sustainable energy future in its partnerships. It always adopts an approach which shapes the future sustainably, fulfilling the Group’s social responsibility.

Alterric GmbH is a joint venture between EWE and the Aloys Wobben Foundation. The company is one of the largest green electricity producers in Europe. It develops and operates wind farms and has set itself the goal of providing a climate-friendly energy supply. Wind energy plays a major role in achieving this objective since it does not emit any greenhouse gases and can be used without depending on raw material imports.

Alterric gives owners of grassed or arable land the opportunity to enter into a partnership and lease out unused land for wind turbines. Owners thus help advance the energy revolution and are paid to do so. The first priority is to evaluate the land to ensure that development does not pose a threat to animals or nature reserves.

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