Birth of wind farm in record time

Impossible? Not for us! After a planning period of seven years, Senvion took over a cooperative wind farm project and is now bringing it to completion in record time. In Bavaria, of all places.

“When we got involved here in November 2016, we were confronted with a huge puzzle,” says project developer Andrea Gütschow. “Many issues were unclear – and requirements from official bodies were strict. We did not have a valid construction permit for a Senvion machine, the cable route was unsafe, existing usage contracts had to be re-concluded with Senvion.” A mere six months later, the “Streu & Saale” wind farm is almost finished: ten white Senvion turbines, each one almost as high as Cologne Cathedral, are in operation on the land between the Streu and Saale rivers. The wind turbines are to be connected to the grid between late July and early August – and will provide enough electricity for up to 15,000 households.

An adventurous and accelerated project

“It's a blessing for us that Senvion took over the project and rescued it, together with us,” says Michael Diestel, Managing Director and Andreas Bauer, authorized representative of Agrokraft GmbH. This subsidiary of Bayerischer Bauernverband and Maschinenring Rhön-Grabfeld was entrusted with the job of procuring the land.  The original goal was to implement and operate the “Streu & Saale” wind farm as a cooperative project in the Windpark Streu und Saale eG, a wind farm that had been specifically built for this purpose. However, this failed. “We had collected around EUR 1.4 million from 214 cooperative members – these people will now get this risk capital back.”

Michael Gottwald, Mayor of Unsleben and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of a local energy cooperative is relieved: “The project had to deal with many setbacks over the years. Our cooperative project that had started with so much enthusiasm and dedication was almost dead. Senvion has managed to breathe fresh life into the project and to construct the wind farm in next to no time at all – an amazing achievement! Now that five of the total of 10 wind turbines have been constructed in Unsleben, our town can boast of completing one more step towards the era of renewable energies, as it continues to live up to its role as a model district for green energy. The bad news here, i.e. the fact that this is no longer a completely citizen-led project, must not cause us to lose sight of the overall picture. The fair acreage leasing system and the fact that the citizens will receive almost all their original contributions back – this is at least one goal that has been achieved.”

Oppositions delay the construction of the wind farm

When an energy cooperative consisting of six local cooperatives was founded in 2012 in order to construct a wind farm, the actual goal was to build 18 turbines. The authorities approved twelve Siemens generators. Several citizens, as well as the bird protection association, took legal action against this as they viewed it as a threat to peace and quiet as well as to nature. Windpark Streu und Saale eG also took legal action in its capacity as the project proposer, because nature protection regulations would have made the cost-effective operation of the wind farm, and therefore the financing, impossible.

The year 2014 saw a laboriously achieved settlement between plaintiffs and the defendant, the District Office: there would now only be 12 generators but with a considerable reduction in regulations. This made it at least conceivable that the project would go ahead.

In the meantime, planning and developing the wind farm took much longer than expected. Money was scarce, the cooperative sold its rights from planning and land procurement to BLUe Development GmbH, a solar energy company. This company initiated the transfer of the construction permit to ten generators from Vestas, but also failed due to massive resistance. When Senvion’s CEO, Jürgen Geissinger, heard of the debacle, he lost no time having the project checked: what risks does it have? And what opportunities? The latter prevailed. “We can manage it,” Geissinger was convinced.

Pulling in the same direction

In November 2016, Senvion took over project management – and project developer Andrea Gütschow moved from Hamburg to Bavaria at short notice in order to be in direct contact with the land owners, wind farm opponents, mayors, authorities and local energy suppliers. “Direct contact is invaluable,” she knows. “Especially in Bavaria, where wind energy has a particularly hard time of it.”

Normally, it takes three to four years from a green field to a completed wind farm. So why did everything now go so unbelievably quickly, despite the obstacles in Bavaria? “For a start, we did not have to start right at the very beginning. Rather, we were able to fall back on two very well connected and dedicated partners: Windpark Streu und Saale eG, and primarily its board member Peter Schmitt, and Agrokraft GmbH,” explains Gütschow. “Secondly, I couldn't get the Energy Feed-in Act out of my head: with each month that passes, we lose 1% of our financial support, and that cannot be good for any project. Thirdly, Senvion has an excellent knowledge of wind energy – and we were our own customer with this project.” In other words, there were absolutely no negotiations between client and customer, which can normally go on for many months. All departments were pulling in the same direction. When problems arose, a colleague could clarify them with another colleague at the drop of a hat.

“It was wonderful teamwork. We were all working with the same goal in mind: to project manage a turnkey wind farm ourselves for the first time in Senvion's history.”
Andrea Gütschow Project Management

Courage pays off

The groundbreaking for the first road building measures took place in January, just two months after Senvion became involved in the project. Without a final construction permit,  the company had to make do with a partial construction permit for the foundations. When the authorities demanded the obligatory dismantling guarantee, the bank refused – and Senvion provided a guarantee with its own capital until the authorities finally gave the go ahead in mid-April. Construction of the foundations started as early as March. “We only ever built on the pieces of land where the property issues had already been clarified,” says Andrea Gütschow. “This was a puzzle made up of 200 plots of land required for construction from 80 different land owners and a further 800 plots of land that also include the property owners in the immediate environment as part of the acreage leasing model.” Tower construction started in early April, and Senvion's installers secured the rotor blades onto the nacelles in late May. Job done!

The “birth” of Senvion's first wind farm of its own was not just the product of endless dedication, clever thinking and hard work. Senvion was heavily involved financially as well – a bold investment, and one that is now paying for itself. A dozen investors are queuing up to buy and operate the Streu & Saale wind farm. It is still uncertain who will be accepted. A takeover by a local or regional cooperative is also conceivable. But whatever happens, Senvion will take on the job of long-term maintenance of the generators and thus accompany them throughout their life. And what about Andrea Gütschow? She is moving back to Hamburg and is looking forward to the next project. “But give me time to breathe first,” she says, laughing. Equally ecstatic with Senvion's work is the cooperative’s board member, Peter Schmitt: “For all of us, for Windpark Streu und Saale eG, for the six local cooperatives with 300 members and more than 50 volunteers, Senvion's dedication marks the culmination of a Herculean task that has lasted more than eight years. And it would not have been possible if we had not all held together right to the very end and if we hadn't had the right partner in Senvion. We are happy and grateful.”

“Streu & Saale” in figures

  • Surface area of the wind farm: 250 hectares
  • Total power of the generators: 34 Megawatts
  • Generator type: Senvion 3.4M122 NES
  • Number of generators: 10
  • Rotor diameter: 122 meters
  • Hub height: 139 meters
  • Ø Net energy yield (P50): 56,000,000 kWh
  • Commissioning: July/August 2017