How The Green Energy Transition Is Destroying Germany’s Nature
- Fritz Vahrenholt, Die Welt
Germany’s climate and energy policy is the main threat to bio-diversity. Politicians, however, have closed their eyes from the destructive effects of the rampant expansion of renewable energy.
Dankwart Guratzsch has convincingly described the destruction of the environment by the energy transition in these pages. The mayor of Tübingen, Boris Palmer (Green Party), responded in an article, saying: “Everything is not so bad. The impact of wind farms on nature is almost zero … The only relevant negative aspect of wind power is the optical … Many wind farms attract visitors, who do not find repulsive.”
What a devastating form of denial by the Green mayor. But he shares the fatal disregard for the destruction of nature with many greens who – helped by the WWF and Greenpeace – open up forests and premium areas of natural beauty for businesses and belittle the intrusion by wind turbines into nature.
More and more citizens are beginning to realise how the green energy transition is at odds with nature conservation and environmental protection in Germany. A grassroot protest movement has started with thousands of local citizens’ initiatives, barely connected with each other, who are against the planting of biofuels far and wide and which is destroying biodiversity, against the threats to indigenous birds by wind turbines built in forests, and against the devastation of unique cultural and landscape areas by photovoltaic excesses.
A biodiversity disaster
Of Germany’s 115 most common bird species, 51 have declined significantly in the last 20 years. The head of the biosphere reserve in Schorfheide, Martin Flade, speaks of a “biodiversity disaster” which is due to “the hectic climate, energy and agricultural policy: In the corn farmland birds have no chance – the field processing falls in the breeding season, and later they hardly find any insects to eat in these mono-cultures. Of the 30 most common species, there are just four that could hold their numbers, all the rest are declining since at least since 2007.”
The Lesser Spotted Eagle, also called Pomerania Eagle, became extinct in Saxony-Anhalt last year. Only 108 breeding pairs remain in Germany. It finds less and less food in the declining grassland and open meadow. The distances between breeding sites and food areas are getting longer and are also increasingly endangered by wind turbines.
Notably countries with Green Party ministers (North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Wurttemberg, Brandenburg and Hessen) have approved regulations which open the use of forests for wind turbines. To place a wind farm every 500 meters in the forest, six meter wide open lanes have to be cut through the forest in order to transport the 100-ton turbines and to maintain them later. Around each turbine, a five-acre open area must be created to lift the blades by giant cranes.
Wind farms in pristine forests
What a wind farm forest looks like can now be seen in many parts of Germany – for instance around Soonwaldsteig, a part of the Hunsrück, one of the last great, largely untouched forest areas in Rhineland-Palatinate with high biodiversity and the presence of numerous highly endangered species. There, the project developer Juwi has erected eight wind turbines in the middle of a forest – despite public protests – and then sold the park to an Austrian energy supplier. Faced with the images of demonstrating citizens, the Green minister Evelin Lemke could only come up with: “Without climate protection, there will be no more biodiversity here.”
But a policy that overestimates the dangers of climate change and that subordinates all other policy objectives, including nature conservation, whatever the cost, generates resistance. The Soonwaldsteig has become a nationwide focal point of citizens’ initiatives against the use of wind power in sensitive areas.
Today, 200,000 dead bats are found under wind turbines annually. The clever animals locate the rotors, fly through them and in the lee behind the turbines, where the air pressure decreases sharply, the bats’ lungs burst. Particularly affected are the noctule, the Serotine, the Small Noctule or the parti-colored bat. The female bat only gives birth to one or two young per year, thus these useful insectivores are endangered by a further uncontrolled construction of new wind turbines.
The red kite is acutely threatened
Following the review of the German Council for Bird Preservation (DRV) and the umbrella organization of German Avifaunists (DDA, 2012), the Red Kite is also in particular danger. After an investigation by the State Ornithological Institute of Brandenburg, the Red Kite is no longer safe in this state with its 3,200 wind turbines. About 300 Red Kites are killed annually in Brandenburg alone by wind turbines.
The decline of the red kites since 2005 in West Germany is striking, as Klaus Richarz, former head of the State Ornithological Institutes for Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, has warned. For him too, windmills built in the habitats of kites are fatal for the birds. The protection of the Red Kite is of special obligation for Germany, because a large percentage of the global population of the birds live in Germany. If you like, it is the real national bird of Germany.
In his hard-hitting article “From the energy transition to biodiversity disaster” Martin Flade, the recognized bird expert, describes climate protection and energy policy as a “major threat to biological diversity”. He concludes: “Overall, you have to draw the bitter conclusion that effects of climate change on biodiversity are hardly detectable; the effects of climate and energy policies, however, are dramatic.”
The problem with intermittent wind turbines
Tübingen’s mayor Boris Palmer demands: “We need to double the number of currently 25,000 wind turbines in order to supply Germany.” What a mistake!
Even 50,000 wind turbines only lead to massive surpluses if the wind blows. Wind turbines have on average around 2,500 full load hours per year, but the year has 8,760 hours. In times of no wind, no electricity is generated, even if one multiplies the number of facilities. Zero times x is zero. The intermittency of renewable energy such as wind and solar require either backup fossil power plants or energy storage capacities.
Storage technologies can only do this tasks with excessive costs. Without fossil power plants to balance the intermittency of renewable energy there will be no guaranteed power supply in Germany, with fatal consequences for the competitiveness of German industry and the manufacturing industry.
It should also be known to the Greens that the expansion of renewable energy due to Germany’s Renewable Energy Law is completely ineffective in terms of CO2 emissions in Europe. The CO2 emissions in Europe are determined solely by the capping of the emissions trading scheme. New wind and solar power, in fact, set more emission allowances free.
These certificates float through the stock exchanges to coal power plants in other EU countries where they allow further increase in CO2 emissions which amount to the same level as the reductions in Germany. Besides additional costs for citizens and the devastation of nature, any expansion of renewable energy will not achieve a single ton of CO2 reduction.
Assumptions of climate policy are flawed
Fossil fuel power plants are not an alternative for Boris Palmer and the Greens because they cause climate change, claiming that “some nature reserves, but also some urban areas cannot be saved from rising sea levels, drought and floods and devastating storms”.
But there are growing signs that the assumptions used for German and European climate policy are flawed. Surprisingly, no global temperature increase has occurred for about 15 years. However, computer models used by climate scientists had predicted a temperature rise of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade.
In early 2013, 17 renowned climate scientists came to the conclusion that the climate sensitivity of greenhouse gases should be significantly reduced. Hans von Storch, researcher from the Helmholtz Centre in Geesthacht, admits: “First option: global warming is weaker because the greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have a lower impact than assumed. That does not mean that there is no man-made greenhouse effect, only that our influence on the climate system would not be as strong as expected. The other possibility: In our simulations we have underestimated how much the climate varies due to natural causes “.
In fact, there are good reasons for the global warming pause. Solar activity has reached a maximum in the second half of the last century. But since the last eleven-year solar cycle, solar activity has decreased dramatically, the solar maximum exited very quickly. The current solar cycle 24 is the weakest in 200 years.
Ocean currents shift into cold phase
Another crucial error by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was its failure to take into account the 60-year-old oceanic-atmospheric cycle of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). The ocean currents change in 30-year intervals between warm and cold phases. They are now moving into a cold phase in which they will remain until 2035. The natural temperature rise in the past was also blamed on CO2, and so scientists got the wrong predictions.
Yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas; it causes a warming of about 1.1 degrees Celsius per doubling of its concentration. But catastrophic global warming of three to six degrees Celsius this century, which justifies energy policies that threaten the existence of local wildlife, is not to be feared.
The sacrifice of German forests may do for wind energy what the battle against the Whyl nuclear power plant was for Germany’s nuclear energy. None of the political parties represented in the German parliament intends to end this attack on the environment. However, the Green Party would feel the impact most if the growing protest movement against the destruction of nature were to raise this threat onto the political agenda.
Fritz Vahrenholt is the chairman of the German Wildlife Foundation and author of the 2012 bestseller “The Neglected Sun”. He is a member of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council.
Translation Philipp Mueller