The unprecedented power of citizen engagement has been demonstrated by the small village Feldheim in the south-west of Berlin, home to 660 (2011) inhabitants and the first fully energy self-sufficient community in Germany. It first started with the building of four wind turbines back in 1997 as cooperation between the local residents and the start-up company “Energiequelle”. At the time nobody expected the extent this wind park would take. Until 2015, it has been successively expanded up to 47 wind turbines with a total capacity of 74MW. To increase the efficiency of the wind park, a battery system has been installed saving surplus energy, enough to provide sufficient electricity for the whole village for two days. In addition, the community decided to build a biogas plant in 2008 to further reduce energy costs by providing district heating. The biogas-fired thermal power station covers the total heat demand of the village and as surplus produces electricity. In the same year, a solar park was added to the system, producing electricity for 600 households.
The rapid development of Feldheim’s growing renewable energy production finally led to the establishment of the Feldheim Energie GmbH & Co. KG, founded and administrated by local citizens. The plan was to provide district heating and electricity now directly to the community instead of merely feeding power into the general grid. This move brought the private utility company E.ON on the scene, which refused to neither sell nor let the grids to the villagers. With financial support of EU funding Feldheim reacted unprecedentedly by building their own electricity and district heating grid, ultimately making them an entirely energy-sufficient and climate neutral village in 2010.
To date, the produced electricity and heat covers the energy demand of the village exceeding the 100% significantly. In fact, with about 9000 MWh per year merely one of the newest high-performance wind turbines covers the annual electricity demand of the village by far. Feldheim thus sells 99% of the energy produced by its wind park.
Throughout the process of achieving energetic autarky, Feldheim could always count on citizen support. The high commitment can be mainly attributed to the economic benefits besides saving the climate by drastically reducing CO2 emissions. Energy prices have dropped by a third and citizens are not affected by the rising gas or oil prices anymore, creating price stability on the long term. In addition, the selling of surplus energy or the leasing of areas for building new wind turbines creates new revenues everyone in the community is benefitting from. Feldheim could also create 35 new jobs during its energy transition and is receiving around 3000 tourists annually from all over the world. All in all, Feldheim is an incredible story of success.
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Wednesday, April 6th, 2016