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Species protection in Bavaria: how lawsuits are holding back the expansion of wind power

Species protection in Bavaria: how lawsuits are holding back the expansion of wind power

Status: 08/14/2022 17:25

In the search for alternatives to Russian gas, renewable energy is more in demand than ever. But the obstacles remain high. In Bavaria, new wind turbine projects often meet with complaints.

Andreas Herschmann is standing on top of the only wind turbine of the Pfaffenhofen citizens’ energy cooperative. Herschmann and his comrades want the town in the Upper Bavarian district to become energy self-sufficient as quickly as possible. By the end of the year, three more wind turbines are supposed to be up and running alongside the first, but now several lawsuits from a nature conservation association are delaying the project.

The association for landscape conservation and species protection in Bavaria e. V., abbreviated as VLAB. The association, based in the Upper Palatinate, has around 8,000 members and is suing in Pfaffenhofen, Upper Bavaria, against the construction of the wind turbines themselves, against the clean-up work for the construction of roads and against the freezing of construction. .

VLAB cites, for example, the danger of birds and sand lizards as arguments. According to the energy cooperative of the citizens of Pfaffenhofen, the animals are not endangered by the planned wind farm. On the contrary: the citizen energy cooperative does a lot to protect the environment and animals. His attorney, Micha Klewar, points out nesting sites for birds and bats and a long protective fence for sand lizards.

Herrschmann wants the city of Pfaffenhofen to be energy self-sufficient.

Image: Melina Geyer

“Stay safe from wind turbines”

Lawyer Klewar has been supporting wind turbine projects in Bavaria for many years. The lawyer expressly welcomes the right of nature conservation associations to initiate collective actions as a strengthening of the rule of law. VLAB also has this right to sue as an association against projects. The association was recognized as a nature conservation association in 2015 during Horst Seehofer’s term as Prime Minister of Bavaria. Since 2019, VLAB has also had the right to take class actions throughout the country.

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However, Klewar points out that large nature conservation organizations like the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) are “very careful about their right to class action.” The lawyer usually settles out of court with them, but not with the VLAB – in the case of the Pfaffenhofen wind farm, for example, they also argue about the location of the nesting place of a pair of owls, although “It has been shown that this nesting spot is far enough away from the project location. The VLAB club is not about finding a sensible solution here for the eagle owl, sand lizard or other animals. It’s about avoiding wind turbines.”

Lawsuits against more than two dozen plants

The VLAB association is currently fighting against at least two dozen wind turbines in Bavaria, including two large wind farms in Franconia. Such procedures cost. Of BR asked VLAB who exactly would pay the legal costs and with what motivation VLAB is taking action against wind turbines across the country. After all, the association has only a few thousand members and by no means local associations everywhere; for example, VLAB has no official representation in Pfaffenhofen. In response to the written request, VLAB only refers to the association’s website by email.

There you can read that the association is “against the excesses of the energy transition”. VLAB explains here: “The construction of more wind turbines and large open-space photovoltaic systems in cultural landscapes and forests must be stopped for the time being.” Wind turbines “would kill masses of birds, bats and insects and disturb the microclimate.”

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District administrator speaks of a “preventive action”

Pfaffenhofen district administrator Albert Gürtner considers the environmental and species protection arguments put forward by VLAB to be false. All VLAB claims against the Pfaffenhofen wind turbines end up on his authority, because the Free State of Bavaria, represented by the district office, complains. The authority has examined the wind farm project of the citizens’ energy cooperative and issued all the permits. District administrator Gürtner describes the legal steps taken by VLAB as “pure preventive activity by an association that wants to avoid the energy transition.”

In a few weeks, the Munich administrative court will decide. Andreas Herschmann, president of the Pfaffenhofen citizens’ energy cooperative, believes the outcome will be positive. “However, we are optimistic that by the end of 23 the plants will be operational and thus help Pfaffenhofen achieve energy sovereignty.” He hopes that VLAB will only delay the wind farm in Pfaffenhofen, not prevent it.