ResearchResearch projects
Windenergietechnologie in Niedersachsen: ein komparativer Ansatz zur Erklärung von Pfadentstehung und Pfadabhängigkeit einer Erneuerbaren Energie

Wind energy technology in Lower Saxony - A comparative approach to explain path creation and path dependence in a renewable energy.

Led by:  Prof. Dr. Rolf Sternberg
Team:  Dipl.-Geogr. Jasper Wellbrock
Year:  2016
Funding:  The Lower Saxon Ministry of Science and Culture
Duration:  2013 - 2016
Is Finished:  yes


For Germany and the state of Lower Saxony, new technologies are of high strategic relevance, as it has comparative advantages in the international economy in knowledge intensive products and business services. It is considerable importance why, through who and under which conditions new technologies emerge and diffuse through time and space. Using the example of the wind energy technology, the requested project wants to examine empirically and theoretically the evolution and diffusion of a new technology and to draw conclusions on energy policy in Germany and particularly Lower Saxony.

The research project addresses three issues. Firstly, it is an attempt to develop a new theoretical concept, which combines the economic theory of path dependence and sociological approaches of path creation. The second aim addresses the influence of structural, path-dependent obstacles for the evolution of a new technology on potentially innovative actors. The third objective of the project is to identify implications for (wind) energy policy in Lower Saxony and to develop concrete recommendations for action. The project has a large transfer potential and the lessons learned from the relatively young technologies in the wind industry could be transferred to the evolution and diffusion of other technologies.
The research project will benefit from a cooperation with Prof. Dr. James Simmie (Oxford Brookes University), which assistent Camilla Chlebna will conduct an analogous study for a reference region in Great Britain. The analysis of both examples of uneven development of the wind energy technology in Lower Saxony resp. Germany and the corresponding reference region resp. Great Britain create added value for the research project.

With respect to the content and methodology the interdisciplinary project at the interface between economic geography, economics and sociology project breaks new ground. The methodology is innovative as it is planned a comparative, international approach, not yet pursued for analyzing the emergence and diffusion of new technologies. This method has been proved successful in a pilot study concerning the wind energy technology in Germany and Great Britain (without regional context). Innovative, too, is the implementation of an evolutionary economic geography on the wind energy in a German region. Compared to conventional economic theory, evolutionary approaches could better explain the emergence and localization of new technologies and industries. In recent years, this concept has been increasingly used for analyzing the development of old or young industries, mostly in manufacturing sectors. It remains open which explanatory power resides in such approaches for renewable energy technologies and industries, which differ widely from traditional technologies and, considering the Energiewende adopted by the German government, are of particular importance especially for the coastal state of Lower Saxony. The value of the research project is quite specific: it should contribute to the debate about path dependence and creation and develop energy and technology policy recommendations for wind power development.


  • Wellbrock, J. (2021): Actors, Institutions and Innovation Processes in New Path Creation – The Regional Emergence and Evolution of Wind Energy Technology in Germany. Hannover. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität, Diss., 2021, xii, 215 S. DOI:
  • Simmie, J.; Sternberg, R.; Carpenter, J. (2014): New technological path creation: evidence from the British and German wind energy industries. In: Journal of Evolutionary Economics 24(4), 875-904.

Presentations to Scientific Audiences

  • Wellbrock, J.: Explaining the creation and development of technological paths: Actors and innovation processes in the evolution of the German wind energy technology. 1st International Conference on Energy Research and Social Science (ERSS), 2-5 April 2017, Sitges, Spain.
  • Wellbrock, J.: Freaks and visionaries - The role of actors in new path creation in the German wind energy technology. 1st International Conference on Energy Research and Social Science (ERSS), 2-5 April 2017, Sitges, Spain.
  • Wellbrock, J.: Freaks and visionaries. The role of agents in new path creation in the German wind energy technology., Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), 2016 March 29 - April 2, San Francicso.
  • Wellbrock, J.: Path Creation through Co-evolution. The Emergence of the Wind Industry. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), 21–25 April 2015, Chicago.
  • Wellbrock, J.: Pfadentstehung der Windindustrie - Ko-Evolution von Technologie, industrieller Struktur und institutionellem Umfeld. Jahrestreffen des Arbeitskreis Industriegeographie, 09.-10.10.2014. Naurod-Niedernhausen.