Why is money puffing up

The wind blows the money into the country

Karl-Heinz Hansen can't talk now. The 66-year-old has a visitor from Brazil. That is not necessarily to be expected when you call a farmer whose farm crouches behind the North Sea dike near Bredstedt. But it's different with Hansen. The agile North Frisian relied on the energy transition when the term didn't even exist. "Now he's a prominent figure," says his wife. 30 years ago, Hansen installed the first wind turbine that fed electricity into the Schleswig-Holstein network. He's been making money ever since. Hansen is the first winner of the energy transition - which many in the north will follow. "The boom is far from over," says Walter Eggersglüß, wind power expert at the Schleswig-Holstein Chamber of Agriculture.

In 1990, seven years after Hansen's pioneering work, there were just 237 wind turbines in the northernmost state that generated 35 megawatts of electricity. Five years later it was more than ten times that - 426 megawatts. In 2000, 1125 megawatts were generated. This value could be tripled by 2012 - to 3403 megawatts. Ten percent of the wind energy produced in Germany now comes from Schleswig-Holstein. By 2020, according to the state government's goal, three to four times more electricity should be produced from renewable energies (wind, sun, biomass) than consumed. Wind power is already clearly ahead of the game. In 2011, photovoltaic systems in Schleswig-Holstein had a capacity of just under 450, and biogas reached around 400 megawatts.

So it is mainly the wind that blows the money into the country. The sums are considerable. In 2011, 1.2 billion euros from electricity payments under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) flowed to Schleswig-Holstein. When you deduct what the end consumers in the northernmost federal state have paid in the EEG surcharge, a positive balance of around 380 million euros remains. The trend is increasing. In 2012 it was already 413 million euros.

Two districts are particularly benefiting from the wind energy boom: Dithmarschen and Nordfriesland. Ironically, in the so far structurally weakest regions of the country, an economic branch is growing up with the generation of electricity that has what it takes to turn the financial situation of many citizens and many cities for the better. "Today, 15 to 20 percent of the gross national product in North Friesland is generated by the wind industry," says Matthias Hüppauf from the North Friesland Economic Development Agency. In 2011, wind turbines with an output of 1,740 megawatts were in operation in the two districts. The reward: around 300 million euros in EEG payments. For comparison: Hamburg, the proud Hanseatic city, received a little more than seven million euros in EEG compensation for its 60 wind turbines with 52 megawatts of output.

The wind power boom is also making the municipal tills ring. According to a study by Windcomm, the advocacy group for the Schleswig-Holstein wind industry, income from trade tax could grow from 40.42 million euros in the past year to between 75 and 133 million euros in 2021 - depending on how fast the expansion is runs. In addition, there is growing income from income tax, because the number of employees will rise. There are currently around 6500.

Fortunately, it is not unusual for an industry to grow. However, it is absolutely unusual how wind power is growing in Schleswig-Holstein: by the hands of the citizen. "In North Friesland in particular, these are actually all neighbors who invested there and are building a community wind farm," says Walter Eggersglüß from the Chamber of Agriculture. “And there is hardly a plant in which a farmer is not involved.” The municipalities would support this, large investors would hardly have a chance. "The municipalities see that the projects run better when the citizens do it." Matthias Hüppauf adds: "In this way, many people create a very solid second income pillar."

Brazilians are also interested in something like that. That's why they were with Karl-Heinz Hansen. Now they are gone. Hansen has time. And it has wind. It has been caught in its rotor for 30 years. “The system is a stroke of luck,” says Hansen. “It's so good!” It cost 180,000 marks back then, and almost nothing has broken since then. Because the wood was always wet and his house couldn't really warm up, he had looked for an alternative at the time. Today it still heats with wind power. “It's all free,” he says enthusiastically. What he doesn't use himself, he sells. "We live from it."