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Who Owns the Wind?

Sebastian Knauer, Der Spiegel (Germany)
With a growing number of wind power stations in Germany, a new kind of legal case is rearing its ugly head. The crime: stealing wind.

It’s an offense not mentioned in the bible or the statute books. But in a broader sense it is about theft, even when the booty itself is invisible. But it is still a major problem for the German legal system, including a court in Leipzig that is currently hearing a case involving a dispute between the operators of two wind turbine facilities. Who owns the wind?

The parties in the dispute are the owner of a wind farm in Deliztsch in the eastern German state of Saxony and a businessman, who wants to set up a bigger wind farm in the immediate vicinity.

The crux of the case is earnings. When two wind turbines are located too close to one another, one often falls into a slipstream. The propellers in the first wind farm decrease the wind pressure hitting the rotor blades in the second wind farm located in the slipstream. “This wind theft naturally affects profits,” Leipzig lawyer Martin Maslaton says, justifying his client’s complaint.

This also reduces the amount of electricity that can be produced. According to the plaintiff’s own calculations, there has been a 15 percent drop in income. Over the lifespan of a wind farm, that could result in losses of several hundred thousand euros.
(4 May 2007)

PV Costs to Decrease 40% by 2010
The solar industry is poised for a rapid decline in costs that will make it a mainstream power option in the next few years, according to a new assessment by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Prometheus Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Global production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells has risen sixfold since 2000 and grew 41 percent in 2006 alone. Although grid-connected solar capacity still provides less than 1 percent of the world’s electricity, it increased nearly 50 percent in 2006, to 5,000 megawatts, propelled by booming markets in Germany and Japan.
Spain is likely to join the big leagues in 2007, and the U.S. soon thereafter. ..

This growth, while dramatic, has been constrained by a shortage of manufacturing capacity for purified polysilicon, the same material that goes into semiconductor chips. But the situation will be reversed in the next two years as more than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan, and the United States bring on unprecedented levels of production capacity, stated the assessment.
In 2006, for the first time, more than half the world’s polysilicon was used to produce solar PV cells. Combined with technology advances, the increase in polysilicon supply will bring costs down rapidly — by more than 40 percent in the next three years, according to Prometheus estimates. ..
(23 May 2007)

Spain’s New Renewable Energy Rules

MADRID – Spanish ministers approved a new set of rules for renewable energy on Friday, curbing profits for wind generators and setting incentives for other types of renewable energy to boost their development.

The following are some of the key points:
* Spain’s Renewable Energy Plan 2005-2010 envisages 12 percent of Spain’s energy consumption coming from renewable sources by 2010.
* The new rules guarantee a return of 7 percent to wind and hydroelectric plants that opt to sell power to distributors direct and a return of between 5 and 9 percent if they participate in the electricity pool market.
* Tariffs will be revised every four years taking into account whether objectives have been achieved for different types of energy and the evolution of costs.
* These revisions will not affect plants that are already in operation. This provides a secure and stable legal framework and fosters development, the Industry Ministry said. ..
(28 May 2007)