In the 2/2017 quarterly barometer report, energy consult CEO Hartmut Flügel and PNE Wind directors Jens-Ulrich Biermann and Heiko Stoffers talk about the far-reaching significance of wind energy and how this can be communicated. Stoffers and Biermann are responsible for acquisitions and project development at PNE Wind, one for northern Germany, the other for the south.
Stoffers, Biermann and Flügel do what they do because they are aware that climate change is a reality, that it is caused by humans and that something can be done about it. Their main goal is to cut CO2 emissions. “That’s why, for us, a wind farm is always much more than a power station that creates electricity, rather it’s a way of helping to protect people, the environment and nature”, says Hartmut Flügel. PNE Wind’s Altenbruch II wind farm near Cuxhaven alone avoids annual emissions of 38,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 197 tons of sulphur dioxide and 49 tons of nitrogen oxide.
The idea that only renewable energy can save the climate on this planet is often the demarcation line between the supporters of the energy transition on the one hand and the opponents of wind power and deniers of climate change on the other. “In this fundamental debate, it’s unfortunate that both fronts are ideologically unshakeable”, says Jens-Ulrich Biermann, head of National Onshore Acquisition. When presenting new projects publicly, Biermann continuously encounters die-hard opponents of wind power. “Communication and information in favour of wind power is therefore extremely important. We have to be ahead of the public debate – with verifiable data and facts.
“Public desire for information has increased dramatically in the past years”, confirms Heiko Stoffers, Head of Project Development. Unlike in the past, debates today are often very emotionally charged. Some see a better future in wind farms, other see them as destroying the countryside. “Emotions come out immediately, while facts only appear bit by bit even though they will remain unchanged”, says Stoffers and adds: “We therefore we want to make it abundantly clear that wind energy alone will not protect the climate, rather it will bring jobs to the region in the form of a decentralised energy source. It will also mean more income tax, corporation tax and equalisation payments going to the local authorities.”
In Biermann’s experience, it is essential that the government, citizens, press, landowners, locals, approvals bodies and environmental groups are informed and included throughout the entire process – from searching for a location to the completion of a wind farm, which takes five to six years on average. “Obviously it’s not enough to talk only to the mayor and approvals bodies. That is not our understanding of ensuring the population is adequately informed.
When PNE Wind sets up a new project, it always involves a communication plan. “And our motto is: the more people know, the better. Nobody should be forgotten”, says Biermann, who is developing projects for PNE Wind in southern Germany. Compared to the north, there is significantly less wind energy in Hesse or Baden-Württemberg and there is sometimes a lot of scepticism amongst locals. Is a wind farm noisy? Could shadows occur? Are birds and bats endangered? “These are clear questions to which we need to have reliable answers and facts”, says Biermann, “We also regularly invite politicians and members of the public to view existing wind farms. The discrepancies between reality and the stories told by the opponents of wind power quickly becomes clear without much needing to be said”. Nothing is more convincing than walking into a working wind farm. Particularly wind farms in hilly areas demonstrate clearly how a satisfactory solution for all could look.
But that doesn’t mean that communication should stop once commissioning has happened, feels Hartmut Flügel, managing director of the wind farm’s operating firm energy consult, a company of the PNE Wind Group. “If a local resident calls us and complains about noise or shadows, we send a technician to the plant immediately”, says Flügel. If there is a noise problem in the plant, for example because of damage to a main component, it is sorted out. If it has nothing to do with the plant, we help the caller to find the cause. “Wind energy has a responsibility towards the environment and nature – and of course to each and every citizen”, says Flügel and concludes with the sentence: “Protecting the climate at the cost of the locals would be absurd and irresponsible. And that’s not what