By Markus Wacket
BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany's economy and climate ministry on Wednesday presented a package of measures to speed up the expansion of onshore wind power generation as the country seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
Germany aims to fulfil 80% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030, with a goal of increasing the capacity of onshore wind power to 115 gigawatts (GW) - equivalent to the capacity of 38 nuclear plants.
But only around 0.8% of land in Germany is currently designated for onshore wind power, with 0.5% actually being used. The draft legislation presented on Wednesday aims for that percentage to rise to 2% by setting out a minimum percentage of land each of the 16 federal states must make available for wind farms.
Since taking office after last year's elections, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, a member of the ecologist Greens party, has been unsuccessfully seeking to convince states to allocate bigger areas for wind farms voluntarily.
The number of construction permits for new onshore wind turbines fell by 14% in the first three months of this year compared with 2021, with Germany's Wind Energy Association saying southern states such as Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg could do more.
Under the proposed new legislation the southern state of Bavaria will have to set aside 1.1% of its land by 2026, rising to 1.8% by 2032.
States would, however, have an option to trade allocations where one might exceed its quota and another falls short.
If any state is at risk of missing its quotas, regulation that dictates that wind farms must be built at a certain distance from residential areas will be suspended.
The law, which is to be approved by the German cabinet next week, also requires an easing of wildlife protection rules on the basis that "the operation of wind power plants is in the overriding public interest and serves public safety", according to the draft text.
(Reporting by Markus Wacket and Riham Alkousaa; editing by Richard Pullin and Elaine Hardcastle)