Feldheim is the first community to become completely self-sufficient in Germany. It’s 100% C02 neutral with 100% independent, direct energy supply from a wind farm, its own electricity grid, biogas plant, heating grid, woodchip heating plant (for backup during cold winters), a heat distribution center and battery storage (flexibility for the national grid). It’s about an hour’s train ride from Berlin.
We’d been meaning to visit for months, when we finally heard there was an opportunity to visit, we jumped at the chance to go.
The project was started by a student who approached the town of Treuenbrietzen and the village of Feldheim and its 145 residents. He wanted to install some wind farms as part of his studies in 1995. Residents were invited to contribute €3000 to join a company that managed the wind farm. There are 49 partners overall, only Feldheim home or land owners are allowed to become a partner. A committee of five represents the interests of all partners.
We had no idea how extensive and off road the tour would be until we got some smiles and careful looks at the narrow tires on our city bikes at the starting point.
The Solar Farm has 9844 photovoltaic modules, 284 trackers.
Total power capacity 2.25 MWp.
Annual output 2748 MWh.
Electricity supply for 600 households.
Feldheim experimented with using sheep to graze on the grass but found the sheep’s waste made it impossible to walk amongst the PVs when maintenance was required.
Although the PVs have the mechanics to turn to maximise the sunlight they take in, with the price of solar dropping so markedly, it’s no longer economical to do so.
The trees are embedded with shrapnel so can’t be used for general purposes.
From the first turbine commissioned in 1995, there are now 47 turbines.
Total capacity: 91.1 MW
Total annual output: 175.1m kWh
The turbine parts up close, scale shown by the portable toilet.
Guide Barbara Ral.
At lunch we headed to the New Energy Forum, a building where exhibitions and workshops are held.
The heating grid seen in the model is 3000 m in length. It supplies 35 homes, 1 industrial unit, 2 communal buildings, 4 agricultural units.
Electricity price: €5.95 per month and 16.6cents/kWh.
Heating price: €1.50 per month and 7.5cents/kWh.
The overall investment cost of the district heating network was €1,725,000. This comprised of €138,000 from the limited company, €830,000 public subsidies, with the remaining funding coming from the general financial market.
The funding of the electricity network was €450,000 – the full amount came from the company’s own funds, with no subsidies.
The advantages for the area:
- Diversification / commercial exploitation of agricultural products
- Security or creation of new jobs in the local farming cooperative
- Economical and ecological energy.
- Increase in value remains in the region, as all input is produced locally.
- Eliminates the “import ” of 160,000 litres of heating oil.
- Generation of business tax revenues from wind farms and biogas plant
- Potential: the arrival of other “clean” industries
- The town of Treuenbrietzen receives regular international visitors and invitations as it positions itself as a centre of excellence in the field of renewable energies
Feldheim’s pumpkin soup, goulasch lunch!
The controls inside the turbine nose.
We’d expected the tour to only be an hour or so… 5 hours later.
Inside a turbine at the control panel.
The ladder and net for the maintenance workers of the wind turbines.
The woodchip heating plant (heat distribution centre and hot water storage tanks) that uses by-products of timber processing from the nearby forest. It is used for additional heating in very cold weather.
In 2004, prices for crops and milk were falling and energy costs were rising. A 30 member farming co-op were invited to start a Biogas plant.
Power capacity 526 kw
Input: 8600 m3/a manure, 8700 t/a maize silage, 190t/a ground cereals.
Energy output: 4.15 million kWh/a electric power, 2.274 million kWh/a thermal power
Output biological fertilizer: 15, 500 m3/a
Some of the tour participants arrived in a classic East German Trabant, one of the smokiest, noisiest, least fuel efficient cars in the world.
Michael Raschemann, in 1995 as a student approached the town to install a wind farm as part of his studies. His latest venture in Feldheim has been battery storage.
This whole building is used to store the batteries.
The end of the tour, cake.
On the way home we filled our bags with apples, plums, lemon sorrel and elderberries.
Many thanks to Feldheim, Barbara Ral and company for the amazing tour, lunch, cake and fruit trees.
Photos by Susanne Feldt / phone photos by Mei / factual text supplied by Barbara Ral of NEF, Feldheim.