Up to 3 years needed to develop PV projects in Germany


A property owner and an unnamed project developer want to set up up to 100 MW of solar at an unspecified location in the German region of Schleswig-Holstein. Everything is theoretically in place: the political will to expand solar energy, available land, and profitability.

However, the planning processes are unnecessarily complex, time-consuming, and slow. And this endangers the possibility of a rapid energy transition. The two parties in our example asked a local planning office to make a proposal.

“That's where it starts,” a spokesperson from the project developer told pv magazine, on the condition that we only identify him by the assumed name “Peter Cetin.”

“State planning requirements are general, but have nothing to do with the reality on site,” said Cetin.

In Schleswig-Holstein, for example, many large areas have been excluded by state spatial planning. Entire communities have been excluded, and individual cases are usually not considered. This is unfortunate because the area has thus far mostly been used for intensive agriculture.

“I don't understand how the deployment of a PV installation can be considered negative at all for nature compared to intensive agricultural use,” Cetin said.

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We discuss solutions for rapid implementation with State Secretary Oliver Krischer from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Iberdrola, Meyer Burger and Solar Power Europe.

-> CLICK HERE to register for the opening session of the pv magazine Roundtables Europe, June 28 at 10:00 am

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Boundary conditions are a key limitation in Schleswig-Holstein. The planning office has distributed 100 MW of capacity across around 80 hectares of the remaining permitted areas in a jigsaw puzzle. Cetin first discussed this plan with the mayors of the relevant municipalities.

“We're currently having a very positive experience with this,” said Cetin. “Most of them wanted to see such projects implemented in their communities and become part of the energy transition – with the economic benefits for the community as well. That's bad for the communities that are excluded from it due to state spatial planning.”

But this is not the end of this part of the planning phase. In some cases, for systems larger than 5 hectares, community-wide area concepts have to be drawn up.

“Of course, this often only happens in small communities only then when there is a project proposal,” said Cetin. “The municipality then has to commission a planner for this and often it can't find one because the resources in the planning offices are fully exhausted.”

One challenge is also, that public entities often give assignments on the basis of tender proceedings.

“But the planning offices are more than busy and have no time or interest in bidding,” Cetin said. “Once the initial hurdle land use planning process has been overcome, there are nature conservation aspects to deal with. It usually takes one year and the result often depends on the willingness of the local nature conservation authority to cooperate.”

Once a municipal council makes a decision, it could still reject a project after about two to three years of planning, without providing reasons. However, Cetin said that this rarely happens.

Normally, the entire process lasts two to three years. If the German government wants to build 150 GW of additional PV by 2030, planning procedures for 75 GW would have to be initiated by 2027 at the latest. How can this be done? This will be one of the topics of the opening session of the pv magazine Roundtables Europe 2022 on June 28 at 10:00 am.

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