Collaborative, local wind park for all

Germany’s Coesfeld shines as example in energy transition

Hamburg / 22 December 2020

Old farms, fields and small woods adorn the Munsterland region. And right in the middle of them lies the farm of the Peter family, who have been farming here for generations. "For centuries we have lived from what nature gives us," says Johannes Peter in summer on a construction site in the middle of a cornfield. Behind him is one of 13 foundations for one of the largest wind farms currently being built in North Rhine-Westphalia. "In this case, nature is giving us the wind. We have the land and the demand for renewable energy is constantly increasing, so it would be sinful not to harvest the wind."
Communications Manager Germany
The mood in the agricultural sector is terrible, Peter reveals. More than 150 years ago, his family bought the land on which the wind is soon to be harvested. "That was extensive grassland back then," the 51-year-old remembers. His father cultivated the land and specialized the family business in bull fattening. But after 50 years, there will be no more pictures of calves in the barn in the future. Peter no longer sees a future in meat production, but rather in wind.

The Coesfeld Letter Bruch wind park with its 13 turbines and a capacity of over 50 MW is almost a giant by German standards. But more impressive than its size is the cooperation on site. All partners pull together and make Coesfeld a beacon project that shows how regional value creation can be built up locally and how the climate can be protected. The local people benefit from wind power and welcome it in their backyard. Unlike so many other wind energy projects in Germany, the wind park has not witnessed any protests.
The Coesfeld Letter Bruch wind park
Fukushima provides spark for change
Johannes Peter already had the idea of using his agricultural land for wind power in the early 2000s, but it did not take shape until after the Fukushima reactor catastrophe. Then, he contacted the city of Coesfeld and was promptly invited to a discussion. The municipal representatives presented him with a study of the potential for wind power in the region and, by revising the land development plan, created the legal basis for the expansion on site. The farmer convinced his neighbors to participate; the municipal utilities, called Emergy, were also quick to join in.

Together they turned to SL Naturenergie. The company founded by Klaus Schulze Langenhorst - himself a native of Munsterland - expanded the idea into a citizen energy project for all Coesfelder. "Wind turbines are too often perceived by people as foreign bodies. You have to find a way to communicate to them that the turbines belong to them, to their community. Because they create value in the town and in the neighborhood, the people there should also benefit from them," explains SL-Naturenergie Co-Managing Director Milan Nitzschke. Local residents in Coesfeld can participate with a total of five million euros. The minimum investment is 500 euros, the maximum investment is 25,000 euros. The participation (technically speaking a subordinated loan) is subject to an annual interest rate of six percent for up to 20 years. The interest is enormous, assures Nitzschke. The first tranche of 2.5 million was granted within a few weeks. The second will follow in Spring 2021.
Even without an own financial commitment, citizens benefit from the wind park. The three partners operating it will donate a six-figure sum annually to a civic foundation that supports social and cultural projects in Coesfeld. In concrete terms, the property owners will waive part of the customary lease payment and thus 1.5% of the income from the wind park will flow into the citizens' foundation.

For Emergy Ron Keßeler, Managing Director of Emergy, the participation was almost a logical step: "We can do something regional that is sustainable and have economic success with it.” Since 2019, electricity providers have been able to add a regional certificate to their products in addition to the proof of origin - meaning the type of generation. In concrete terms, this means that as soon as the wind farm starts operating, Keßeler will be able to sell electricity from the neighborhood to the people of Coesfeld. For Emergy, this is a competitive advantage over supra-regional competitors without local roots.
City runs fully on green energy
The new wind park will generate more energy than the Coesfelders can consume. The city thus exceeds the mark of 100 percent renewable energy in the electricity sector. For the newly elected mayor, Eliza Diekmann, the wind park stands for climate protection in action. "It's incredibly difficult for people," she says with a view to the complexity of the climate crisis and the often distant discussions about abstract goals, "so it's nice to be able to implement large projects locally where everyone can participate and make their contribution to the energy transition.” She sees the municipal administration as an interface that brings all the players together and ensures the right framework conditions are in place.
Milan Nitzschke (right) advertises for the participation in the citizen wind park together with a colleague © SL Naturenergie
During her election campaign, she experienced that the wind farm has an almost identity-forming effect and that the citizens are proud of what has been achieved.

Milan Nitzschke can only agree with this: "The wind farm is something that belongs to the municipality of Coesfeld in every respect. The success of the project even radiates beyond Coesfeld and other communities have already asked whether wind farms are possible in their region”, he reports. "We are changing perceptions. The wind farm is not something that comes from outside, but something that communities and citizens would like to have.” For SL Naturenergie’s founder Schulze-Langenhorst, the recipe for success consists of down-to-earthness and reliability: "We know every corner here and we know the people. Ever since the foundation 20 years ago, the company has been developing its projects exclusively on its own doorstep in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Thomas Bergmann, in charge of the project at Siemens Gamesa
Christmas cheer as towers arrive
Shortly before the beginning of the Christmas season, concrete towers rise up into the sky in the fields. Heavy transporters deliver rotor blades and nacelles. The 13 wind turbines are scheduled to go into operation in Spring 2021.

Thomas Bergmann, who is in charge of the project at Siemens Gamesa, is not only pleased about the euphoria on site. Under his aegis, an innovative project setup was developed, which is being used in Coesfeld for the first time. 

SL Naturenergie buys the hybrid towers and foundations directly from the specialists of Max Bögl AG and also takes over the project management for the installation of the concrete components.

"Together with our partners, we look for customized solutions for each project. The new division of labour between SL Naturenergie, Max Bögl and us will increase the profitability of the wind park," explains Bergmann and sums up: "Strong partners and good cooperation are the key to success in order to protect the climate and involve the local people economically. Coesfeld is a prime example of this in every respect."

Strong partners and good cooperation are the key to success in order to protect the climate and involve the local people economically. Coesfeld is a prime example of this in every respect.

The project forms part of the ‘Partnerships with Purpose’ series of articles highlighting inspiring projects that Siemens Gamesa is working on with partners to tackle the climate crisis through the power of relationships, innovation, people and community.


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