West Germany topples ban on private windmills

Joachim Bahrdt and Marianne Schubert can now rejoice. At last these two architects can legally arrange for private windmills for their clients. For years they have shared with many young West German professionals an interest in the environment and in renewable energy. For years bureaucratic bans have frustrated their hopes to put their ideas into practice.

Now the bans have been invalidated - at least for West Germany's northernmost states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony - by a West German administrative appeals court. On a suit filed by another architect, Gertraude Buchholtz of the windswept island of Sylt, the court ruled that local officials could not bar her modern wind propeller on grounds of incompatibility with the thatched-roof style of her traditional village.

Less picturesque towns have refused permission for windmills generating household electricity on technical grounds. The old German axiom that everything is forbidden that is not specifically permitted has lost much of its force in today's West Germany, but it lives on with a vengeance in minutely detailed building regulations.

This explains the abrupt change of landscape between Denmark and neighboring Schleswig-Holstein over the past decade. The Danish side of the border is dotted with three-bladed wind propellers for household electricity. The West German side is conspicuous for their absence, except for isolated official experiments.

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