In physical terms, the Vestas rotor-blade plant in Lauchhammer gets its electricity from an on-site biomethane power plant as well as from a nearby wind turbine. Economically, the power-supply model is considerably more complex.

The wind turbine at the Vestas plant in Lauchhammer produces electricity for rotor-blade manufacturing. Photo: Stefan Schroeter

The Vestas rotor-blade plant in Lauchhammer, Germany, has a short transmission path for the green electricity used in its production. On a slag heap 300 meters away, a Vestas 112 wind turbine has been up and running since May 2013, supplying the plant with electricity with a peak output of 3.3 megawatts. A combined heat and power plant (CHP) began operating directly at the site even earlier, in March 2013, producing electricity and process heat from biomethane gas. It has power and heat outputs of 1,200 kilowatts, respectively.

The green electricity produced by the turbine and the CHP is sufficient on many days to completely cover the plant’s power demand. Oftentimes the two facilities can even feed an electricity surplus into the public grid. On windless days, the plant gets the electricity it needs from the substation of grid operator Mitnetz Strom.

The advantage of this physical electricity supply model is obvious. The green electricity from the biomethane CHP and the wind turbine are produced very close to the electricity consumer, obviating the need for costly grid expansion. All that was needed were connection lines from both power plants to the power supply point of the production facility. Added to this is the tangible connection to its own manufacturing operations: the wind turbine’s 55-meter rotor blades were produced here at the plant.

Clearly more complex is the economic model underlying this power supply. The wind turbine was produced by Vestas but is not in fact the property of this Danish company. The owners are several current and former employees of Vestas Blades Deutschland and its managing director Frank Weise. Their aim was not only to supply the production site with green energy. “We also wanted to get some experience in operating the wind turbine,” Weise says.

From an economic point of view, the wind-turbine operators feed the electricity they produce into the local power grid and are remunerated by Mitnetz in accordance with the German Renewable Energies Act (EEG). The CHP, belonging to Danpower, has a similar set-up. Vestas, for its part, buys the electricity needed in its production from the regional energy supplier Enviam and the public utilities company of Lübeck.

Weise cites traditional company policy as the reason Vestas does not operate the wind turbine itself as an on-site power generation unit. “Vestas does not want to compete with its own customers who install and operate wind turbines.” The company, moreover, has no interest in using a power supply model in Germany that would bypass the EEG reallocation charge (EEG-Umlage). “Vestas pays the full EEG reallocation charge for all its electric energy and will continue to do so,” the managing director pointed out. He can, however, imagine simplifying this rather complicated economic wind-energy supply model as soon as the legal framework and company policy allow for it.

A more detailed version of this article is available in German.

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