Tailwind for the Energy Transition

Interview with Thomas Winkler, Managing Director of VSB Holding GmbH

Thomas Winkler, Managing Director of VSB Holding GmbH
Thomas Winkler, Managing Director of VSB Holding GmbH

The expansion of wind power is progressively advancing in Germany, not least driven by the most recent political measures. One of the pioneers in the German market for wind energy is VSB. In Saxony-Anhalt, the company is currently implementing one of the largest onshore repowering projects in Europe.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Winkler, with VSB Neue Energien Deutschland, are you focusing on wind turbines?

Thomas Winkler: Our focus is on onshore wind farms – the bigger, the better. We are now active nationwide in Germany. However, we are strongest in Hesse and Saxony-Anhalt, where we have realized most projects so far. But we are also active in Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein, Saxony, and Thuringia. Currently, we are also seeing an increasing demand from Bavaria. Due to the 10H rule, there were hardly any space potentials visible in Bavaria for a long time. However, the opportunities have significantly expanded now, and we were able to successfully acquire several projects. Of course, we always check if there is enough wind. Regional differences are balanced by the EEG. This facilitates the realization of wind parks in regions with less wind yield. Naturally, we also take on repowering projects.

Wirtschaftsforum: Could you please give us some examples of projects that you have already developed and implemented?

Thomas Winkler: In the Elster wind farm in Saxony-Anhalt, we are currently realizing one of the largest onshore repowering projects in Europe. Repowering of wind turbines refers to the process of replacing older wind turbines with newer, more efficient models. At the Elster repowering project, this occurs at the location where we built 50 units between 2000 and 2003. We have now dismantled these and are installing 16 new units instead. This increases the energy yield sixfold. The repowering wind farm will have a capacity of 105.6 MW and generate around 235 GWh of electricity per year – enough to supply 67,000 three-person households with renewable energy. Our goal is to commission the wind farm by the end of 2024.

VSB Holding Wind Energy and Photovoltaics
Wind Energy and Photovoltaics: The Power Duo of the Future

Wirtschaftsforum: Have you also implemented projects abroad?

Thomas Winkler: Yes, as the VSB Group, we are represented in eight other countries across Europe. In Finland, our colleagues are currently realizing one of VSB's largest projects - the Karahka wind farm. This includes a total of 25 wind turbines with an impressive output of 170 MW. Planning for the Karahka wind farm began in 2016. It originally consisted of two separate wind projects. During the planning process, all necessary legal steps were taken, including administrative approval and inclusion in the regional land use plan. At the same time, intensive work was done on a local master plan, and environmental impacts were carefully assessed. This simultaneous approach was a novelty in Finland at the time. The entire planning process was successfully completed in 2022, and the project is currently in the construction phase. Commissioning is scheduled for the end of 2024.

Wirtschaftsforum: You operate in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. What sets VSB apart from other providers?

Thomas Winkler: We have been in the market for almost 30 years, giving us an advantage in experience. Many of our competitors are still new to the market. Over the decades, we have earned an excellent reputation for consistently high-quality performance and are experienced with long-term projects. We have been ISO 9001 certified since 2017. In addition, we always work with the latest technologies and types of systems. Moreover, VSB is characterized by intensive collaboration with local stakeholders. We place great importance on partnership relationships with the communities in which we operate and work closely with local authorities, environmental protection organizations, and residents. This close connection to the regions where we implement projects allows us to develop customized solutions that take into account the needs and concerns of the local people. This close cooperation contributes to our projects being not only economically successful but also socially and ecologically sustainable.

Wirtschaftsforum: How do you assess the work of our government regarding renewable energy?

Thomas Winkler: Compared to the previous government, the current government has already implemented many measures. Many procedures for renewable energy projects have been simplified and accelerated. The designation of areas for wind energy was an important impulse for the federal states to take the 2% targets seriously. However, the communication of measures could be improved.

Wirtschaftsforum: Do you already have concrete plans for 2024?

Thomas Winkler: In Germany, we will submit many projects with a total capacity of up to 400 MW. We expect approvals for about 100 MW. In the past years, we have created the basis for further projects through intensive land acquisition. Now we will focus on bringing the secured lands into implementation.

Wirtschaftsforum: What long-term plans do you have with VSB New Energies Germany?

Thomas Winkler: Our goal continues to be one of the largest developers of renewable energy projects in the German market. We also want to expand our activities in the photovoltaic sector. Among other things, we will implement hybrid parks with wind and PV. The advantages are stable yields all year round, space savings, and efficient use of common grid connections. This efficient energy mix is a significant step as flexibility in electricity supply becomes increasingly important with the expansion of renewable energies.