Aging autobahn thwarts Germany’s plan to erect massive windmills

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BREMEN – Germany’s autobahn is known for its limitless speed, but its aging infrastructure is not up to the task of carrying the massive windmill towers and rotor blades needed for the country’s energy transition. Developers complain the highways are now slowing progress.

Earlier this year, German haulers made a tedious detour transporting rotor blades from the port of Bremen to an onshore wind park in the north of the country. Instead of a highway route that normally takes about three hours, narrow curves and size restrictions forced them to spend three nights travelling triple the distance on alternative roads.

Wind turbine producers say such situations are becoming a regular occurrence, warning that Germany’s autobahn – once hailed for its efficiency and unlimited speed – has turned into a massive roadblock for the country’s climate goals.

About six new windmills have to be built every day for Germany to meet its aim of generating 80 per cent of electricity from clean sources by 2030, requiring roughly 60,000 road transports per year.

If turbines cannot be erected as planned, Germany’s green transition will be “on the brink of collapse”, more than 30 business associations warned in a recent statement.

The problem is that the country’s highway network was largely built in the decades following World War II, and its infrastructure is not cut out for carrying huge rotor blades and steel tower segments, which can be about 35m long and weigh 80 metric tonnes. While that is likely to be a challenge anywhere, even regular freight transports are facing mounting restrictions in Germany as deteriorating roads and bridges are often closed off to trucks.

“If the delays persist, we run the risk of the energy transition getting stuck on the road,” said Mr Hendrik Peterburs, head of global logistics at Enercon, the wind turbine producer whose blades made the recent lengthy detour from Bremen.

Already in the first half of this year, Enercon had 70 late deliveries related to wind turbines. Each of those delays can cost up to €10,000 (S$14,552) for a single rotor blade, Mr Peterburs said, as machinery has to be rented for longer and contractual penalties kick in.

For some producers, the unreliability of the autobahn is leading to severe backlogs. SIAG Tube und Tower GmbH, a Leipzig-based maker of massive steel towers for wind turbines, had to curb output by a third this summer as storage facilities were full and components couldn’t be transported onwards.

The situation is made worse by the wind industry’s trend to build bigger components to make power generation on land and sea more efficient. 

Upgrading older wind farms – of which there are about 13,600 in Germany – is also a challenge, with dismantling of used components dropping by 20 per cent last year, according to industry data.

Mr Frank Kreimer, director of Hagedorn GmbH logistics, who often takes outdated wind turbines to be recycled, blames the road situation for the drop.

Moving the equipment needed to assemble windmills is also difficult. Logistics specialist Wasel GmbH did not get clearance to move a crawler crane recently, which meant it was stranded for eight weeks. Director Matthias Wasel says he regularly has to add detours of about 70km to his journeys in order to use the only bridge that allows him to cross the Rhine river with his heavy vehicles.

EMEA Tribune is not involved in this news article, it is taken from our partners and or from the News Agencies. Copyright and Credit go to the News Agencies, email [email protected]

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