German village Feldheim the country’s first community to become energy self-sufficient
The rural village of Feldheim, 80 kilometres south of Berlin, is at the vanguard of Germany’s energy revolution, boasting a wind farm, solar plant, biogas and biomass facilities.
Germany is undergoing an energy transformation called Energiewende, which aims to reduce carbon emissions, increase the use of renewable energy, and stop all nuclear power.
Feldheim is the country’s first community to become completely energy self-sufficient.
The village now attracts thousands of ecotourists every year and has set up an educational group to spread the word.
The New Energy Forum’s Kathleen Thompson told the ABC it all started back in 1995.
“A student by the name of Michael Raschemann decided as part of his studies he’d like to install some wind farms,” she said.
With the support of local council, Feldheim’s 145 residents were quickly convinced of the wind farm’s merits.
One of those residents is 73-year-old Joachim Gluck, who has lived in the village his whole life.
Germany’s energy transition
- 80 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2050
- Nuclear plants shut down by 2022
- Carbon emissions cut by up to 95 per cent of 1990 figures by 2050
“There wasn’t much headwind … the project was done in open discussions at resident’s meetings. Everyone was allowed to voice his or her opinion,” he said.
Residents were invited to join a limited company to manage the wind farm in which they contributed 3,000 euros each.
Mr Raschemann founded a company, Energiequelle, which planned and implemented the project.
The wind farm now has 47 turbines, which produce 175 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year.
The town of Feldheim uses just one per cent of that, the rest is sold back into the wider grid.
Residents and businesses now pay a third less for their electricity than other German communities, at 16.5 eurocents per kilowatt hour.
The biggest local business is the agricultural cooperative which produces milk, pig meat and grains.
After the success of the wind farm, the cooperative, in partnership with Energiequelle, built a biogas plant to use manure and silage to heat the village.
The plant cost nearly 2 million euros and much of that was provided by government subsidies.
It has cut heating costs and saved the import of 160,000 litres a year.
The partnership has also built a solar farm with 10,000 modules, which has an annual output of 3,000 megawatts.
The town does not waste a thing, with a small woodchip heating plant burning timber by-products from nearby forests.
Mr Gluck said the big energy groups fought against Feldheim’s transformation.
“The permit process took longer than the actual building process,” he said.
But that has not deterred the villagers from new projects.
They are now spending 13 million euros on battery storage, which will help with consistency of supply.