Wind power

Wind power in North Rhine-Westphalia is not only a key to the energy transition, but also an important economic factor.

Wind power is an indispensable component for a climate-neutral energy sector in the industrial and energy state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Almost half of the renewable electricity is currently generated by wind turbines. 

In North Rhine-Westphalia, there are currently around 3,570 wind turbines in operation with a cumulative installed capacity of more than six gigawatts. These generate around 12,300 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually, which corresponds to the average annual demand of around 3.5 million three-person households. With its installed capacity, North Rhine-Westphalia is currently in fourth place nationwide behind the windy states of Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Brandenburg. 


Wind power as an economic factor

Around 20,000 jobs in North Rhine-Westphalia along the entire value chain depend on the expansion of wind power. From the production of individual components to project development and turbine operation to dismantling, recycling and research, the annual turnover is around seven billion euros. More than 40 per cent of this is accounted for by the supplier industry, which manufactures technical components and supplies locations far beyond federal state borders. 


Existing areas must be used

A decisive factor for the expansion of wind power is identifying suitable locations. Thus, the State Agency for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection is currently revising the NRW Renewable Energy Potential Study – Wind Power. According to preliminary results, locations for up to 17 gigawatts are considered to be available in North Rhine-Westphalia. In the updated NRW Energy Supply Strategy, the federal state aims to double the current capacity to twelve gigawatts by 2030. This corresponds to a net annual increase of about 650 megawatts, which means about 150 new wind turbines per year at current turbine sizes.


Advancing the expansion in a way that ensures acceptance

In North Rhine-Westphalia, wind turbines must maintain a minimum distance of 1,000 metres from residential buildings. However, municipalities are still free to go as far below 1,000 metres as the emission regulations allow in their urban land use planning. Legal certainty for project developers is important.

Nature conservation and species protection

Taking nature conservation and species protection into consideration is of paramount importance to ensure acceptance of the expansion of wind power. One of the challenges is to avoid species protection conflicts and at the same time to ensure that approval procedures can be completed quickly through uniform regulations. 

Technology and innovation

Innovative technologies can help wind turbines operate more ecologically and economically. For example, research is being conducted on various systems that recognise birds and reduce the speed of the rotor blades when the animals approach. With such event-based shutdowns, in the future wind turbines can also be operated in areas where operation would only be possible to a limited extent due to species protection conflicts. 


Innovative event-based switching is also used in night-time signalling. To ensure air safety in the dark, wind turbines must be equipped with a flashing light from a height of 100 metres. Residents often feel that this disturbs night-time rest. For this reason, mandatory needs-based night-time signalling was introduced in 2018. By the end of 2022, the installations must automatically detect whether an aircraft is approaching and only flash when necessary. 

Funding and participation

The energy transition is a joint project. The financial participation of citizens and municipalities is therefore an important component to ensure acceptance of the transformation of our energy system. Options for financial participation are regulated in the Renewable Energy Sources Act.


In addition to financial participation, it is also important to involve the public in the planning and approval process from the very beginning and to communicate transparently. All sides should be heard and silent supporters should also be included in the process. 


The Federal Environment Agency provides a clear overview of how citizens and local authorities can be involved in the planning process: 


Click here to see what is available.


From planning to approval

The planning process for wind turbines begins with the selection of suitable sites and is guided by spatial planning. Building on the Federal Aims of Spatial Order, regional planning substantiates superordinate expert planning using the State Planning Act and the State Development Plan. The municipalities can then determine the specific locations within a defined area in the urban land use plans. As a result, urban land use planning must be adapted through land use plans in accordance with the superordinate land use planning and must also take into account items such as minimum distances from seismological stations and air traffic control infrastructure, in addition to distances from residential buildings. 


Privilege in outdoor areas

Wind power in North Rhine-Westphalia is privileged in outdoor areas. Wind turbines can essentially be erected there as long as there are no other public concerns. Through an opening clause in the building code, North Rhine-Westphalia has rescinded this privilege for wind power within 1,000 metres of residential buildings. However, the planning authorities have a control system option through concentration zone planning which allows them to concentrate the turbines at low-conflict locations and keep the rest of the outer area free of use.


Approval of wind turbines

The approval procedure wind power projects must go through depends on the scope of the planned project. While the public must be involved in the formal procedure with environmental impact assessments (EIA), no public participation is required in the simplified procedure. In both cases, it must be ensured that the project does not conflict with any public-law concerns and that no harmful environmental effects or other hazards result from the planned project. Projects currently in the process for which an EIA must be performed can be found on the EIA portal:


Click here to go to the EIA portal.



Repowering is an option for older wind turbines. This involves dismantling the less powerful turbines and replacing them with larger and more powerful ones. This has the advantage that it can use existing infrastructure. The landscape can also be improved by reducing the number of turbines while increasing the installed capacity. Existing land potential can be utilised in this way, especially in densely populated federal states such as North Rhine-Westphalia. 


As an interface between science, industry, politics and citizens, NRW.Energy4Climate supports the state government in implementing the energy transition. NRW.Energy4Climate promotes the expansion of wind power in North Rhine-Westphalia by identifying obstacles to expansion, pointing out possible solutions and networking with stakeholders. The federal state agency is thus the first point of contact for all those who want to get involved – on both large and small scales. 


Your contact

Portrait des Projektmanagers für Energiewirtschaft Matthias Poloczek. Im Hintergrund ist eine große Glasfront zu sehen.

Matthias Poloczek

Project Manager Energy Sector

Phone: +49 211 8220 864-48

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Portrait des Projektmanagers für Energiewirtschaft Tobias Scholz vor einer großen Glasfront im industriellen Design.

Tobias Scholz

Project Manager Energy Sector

Phone: +49 211 8220 864-36

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