Small towns have no more excuses. Bavarian village Wildpoldsried, with a population of about 2,600, has created a local economy that produces 321% more energy than it needs, selling the excess back to the national grid at a rate of $5.7 million annually. This little German powerhouse has utilized solar, biogas digesters, windmills, hydro power plants, and a natural wastewater system to reduce its own use and increase its energy positive output. Every hamlet, township, city, metropolis, and megalopolis can learn something from Wildpoldsried.
Many moons ago — in 1997 to be exact — the Wildpoldsried village council realized it needed to come up with some industries to bring in some money. Wanting to create local jobs without running up boatloads of debt, the council settled on green initiatives. Fifteen years later, Wildpoldsried has nine buildings equipped with solar panels, three small hydro power plants, four (soon to be five) biogas digesters, and seven (soon to be nine) wind turbines. Private citizens have also gotten in on the action, with about 190 homes sporting solar panels.
What’s all the eco-friendly investment done for Wildpoldsried? A lot. This community has kept itself from becoming a no-name whistle-stop, with its small business scene dedicated to — and thriving because of — green technology installations.
In addition to all the feel-good stuff, Wildpoldsried is making cash hand over fist and garnering international accolades. The council and mayor are known to give tours of Wildpoldsried to other village councils, showing them a greener way forward. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the mayor has even done some global tours.
Wildpoldsried has taken its green idea and turned it into a way of life for its citizens, and a model for onlookers. By investing in sustainable technologies, the tiny Germany town proves that communities of all sizes can change their trajectories.
Chelsea is a former newspaper reporter who has spent the past few years teaching English in Poland, Finland and Japan. When she wasn't teaching or writing, Chelsea was traveling Europe and Asia, sampling spicy street food along the way.