Canadian Biomass Magazine

German biomass plant growth to recover – study

July 6, 2012
By Argus Media

July 6, 2012, Hanover, Germany — Growth in German biomass power plants will recover this year after a lull in 2011, according to a study prepared on behalf of the environment ministry.

But Germany's biomass market is unlikely to experience the record growth rates of 2009, when more than 100MW of electric generation capacity came on line, according to biomass research centre DBFZ, which compiled the study. Around 80MW of new capacity is expected on line this year, up from 30MW last year. Total installed biomass capacity is now around 1.3GW.

The main impediment to further growth is an increase in prices for raw materials.

Few relatively large plants, with an installed capacity of over 10MW, are being installed and this is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. Another issue is finding buyers for the generated heat. A biomass-fired plant generating just power can no longer cover its costs through feed-in tariffs, and full feed-in tariffs are granted only if a certain amount of cogeneration takes place. Co-firing of biomass remains ineligible for feed-in tariffs.

Wood gasification has experienced strong growth in Germany in the past three years, with another big rise in new installations expected this year. These plants, which tend to have small capacities, usually run on pellets. Pellet prices have remained relatively stable in the past few years which, together with increasing raw material costs, mainly saw dust, has caused six pellet producers to file for bankruptcy in the past two years, while five others were taken over by competitors.


Landscape conservation wood has been playing an increasingly important role since 2009, with a range of plants running on this type of wood coming on line. Prices for such wood, and for wood chips, have remained stable thanks to a matching increase in availability. But prices for high-quality landscape conservation wood, such as the wood found along motorway embankments, are relatively high.

DBFZ notes an increasing interest in short rotational crop plantations to make up for the lack in high-quality landscape conservation wood, although this development is still in its infancy. Germany's second-biggest utility RWE, for example, has only just started assessing the plantations it started growing in 2008.

Renewable energy sources at the end covered around 20pc of Germany's power consumption last year, with biomass accounting for 28.9pc of this figure.

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