Wind Energy Lessons Learned 20 Years Ago in Kaiser-Wilhelm-Koog
Enlarge image The test site was built with money from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. (© picture-alliance / dpa)
The marshland around the small town of Kaiser-Wilhelm-Koog on the coast of Schleswig Holstein is entirely flat. That’s why the wind blows particularly strongly here on this spot at the mouth of the Elbe. On August 24, 1987, Germany’s first commercial wind park commenced operations. The small community of 360 residents is considered to be in one of the windiest areas of Germany. “Here on the North Sea the wind is pretty much always blowing,” Mayor Anken von der Geest-Borwieck says.
Nowadays there around 40 megawatts of wind power installed around the small town. And everything began with a mishap. At the end of the 1970s, scientists wanted to show everyone what wind power was capable of with the new station, at the time the largest in the world. On July 6, 1983, Growian – an acronym formed from the German words for “great wind energy station” – started its test operation at the current site of the wind park today. It was built with money from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
Enlarge image Kaiser-Wilhelm-Koog became the site of the first commercial wind park in 1987 after a four-year test period. (© picture alliance / dpa) Growian had a 100-meter-high tower, and its blades had a wingspan just as large. When the wind blew strongly, the station produced three megawatts. Only four years after its opening, however, the site was shut down and a short time afterward it was finally wrecked. In fact, Growian was not in operation most of the time because of a construction error. Yet engineers learned from the mistakes.
The experiences made with Growian were valuable for the construction of the first commercial wind park. In 1987, 30 smaller wind power stations were installed in the same spot. They brought a megawatt of energy into the network. The entire branch still profits today from the basic knowledge that was gained in Kaiser-Wilhelm-Koog.
The place is now at the center of Germany’s shift to clean energy. Schleswig-Holstein’s Environment Minister Robert Habeck says that even though Growian was not a success at the time, it survived as a symbol.