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Published on December 4th, 2014 | by Steve Hanley


This German Village Produces 321% Energy Surplus, Worth $5.7M Per Year

December 4th, 2014 by  

Originally published on ExpertSure.

The German village of Wildpoldsried is producing 321% more energy than it needs. Selling that energy surplus back to the region’s local utility company adds $5.7 million dollars to the town’s treasury.

German-VillageWildpoldsried’s green initiative first started in 1997 when the village council decided it should build local industries to bring in new revenue. Over the past 14 years, nine new community buildings have been equipped with solar panels, four bio-gas digesters built, and seven windmills installed. In the village itself, 190 private households have solar panels while the district also benefits from three small hydro power plants, ecological flood control, and a natural waste water system.

The village has received numerous national and international awards for its conservation and renewable energy initiatives. Mayor Zengerle has journeyed to Romania, Berlin, and the Black Sea Region to tell others how they can transform their communities and make money in the process.

He tells Biocycle, “The mitigation of climate change in practice can only be implemented with the citizens and with the Village Council behind them 100 percent of the way. This model cannot be forced from only one side. We often spend a lot of time talking about how to motivate [town governments] to start thinking differently. We show them a best practices model in motion and many see the benefits immediately. From the tour we give, our guests understand how well things can operate when you have the enthusiasm and conviction of the people.”

The wonder is not that one town has found an environmentally friendly way to generate a surprising amount of energy surplus-sourced income. The wonder is that more communities have not done the same. Just imagine what an energy surplus program like this could do to drive down the tax rate in your community!

Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

  • gataheart

    Mention is made that “190 private households have solar panels” ..so, my question is ‘WHO benefits from this “CITY’S” energy?’ Apparently NOT its citizens.?? Their tax dollars undoubtedly financed it. No one in that town should need ‘private’ energy nor be paying for energy. AND EVERY HOUSEHOLD SHOULD BE RECEIVING DIVIDENDS FROM SALES OF EXCESS ENERGY. ANYONE KNOW?
    .that is unless the City Elders made a deal (kickbacks anyone?) w/private companies.
    cynical here.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Please don’t abuse the Caps Lock key.

      The Caps Lock key has done nothing to you.

      • gataheart

        Point taken.

    • Jenny Sommer

      Why shouldn’t they benefit? The pannels belong to the citizens. The city has invested in RE and gets some revenue out of it. That’s good for the community.
      A lot of the people have also invested in the wind plants and the biogas plants are owned by local farmers.

      It’s not top-down if you believe that. The local people have started it.
      Just 2500 people that made smart decisions on energy. This is also a testbed for smart grid technologies. This is how Germany will work in 30-35 years.

      There are other cities that do it alike, also buying the grid back or establishing parallel microgrids where the grid operators do not cooperate.

      • gataheart

        Thank you.

        Didn’t take time to do research for the answer so I just posted the question. Yes, they should, was my point. Here they tax you to build ‘improvements’ but the improvements are then privately or governmental owned and you still get the pleasure of also paying to benefit from what your ‘tax’ dollars created. Good to know these Germans were smart enough to benefit themselves. We could take a lesson from that.

      • Larmion

        On the other hand, all that renewable energy is paid for by all Germans through extremely generous FIT’s.

        The article gives the impression that the community generates a profit of 5,7 million per year when in fact it receives a subsidy worth at least 4 million (they’d get under 2 million if power was sold at market value).

        There’s nothing wrong with that; the Energiewende was chosen by the people of Germany after all. However, there’s no excuse for dishonest reporting.

        • Jenny Sommer

          The EEG was adapted to a fixed corridor of upper and lower boundaries some years ago. Before that there was no upper limit.
          The fit is a rather complicated tool and decreasing over time. In 2010 the fit for solar on farmland was completely abolished because these installations are now regarded as economic at normal market rates.
          It would be interesting to see the complete calculation but I really doubt that the market value is less than 80% of their revenue.

          The renewable surplus is also set to decrease in the future. It has been calculated that the most expensive year of the energywende would cost a German household 150€/a more over a BAU scenario.

          Economics and math behind the Energiewende is widely published and the good thing is the outlook past 2025 where savings should really manifest.

          The reporting might be flawed but the process itself is far from dishonest. The debate about the Energiewende is so different in Germany when compared to international reporting or international discussion forums on energy. When surfing the internet the Energiewende is mostly used by nuclear advocates trying to make a point against renewables. Germany is past that discussion already and it’s a shame that international press does not go into depths.

          One interesting detail is that it took German people a long time since the liberalization of the market in 1998 to realize the savings they can archive by switching the supplier. The quota grew from 7% in 2005 to 34% in 2014…still a little disappointing. You should check this at least once a year…I just did and will save another 50€/a only by switching…to 100% renewable of course… (Not that I really need the money but why not.)
          There is also a 100% nuclear tariff now for those who fancy such (till 2035 because its a Swiss nuke).

  • Todd

    Hip-hip Hooray! Hip-hip-horay! Hip-Hip Horay!

  • Matt

    Short version “But we have a lot more work to do to make a device that is practical.”
    Hopeful it will make it, but a long row to hoe before we know if practical. The have to commercialize.

  • Will E

    190 privat households making 5.7 million a year.
    on clean energy.

  • johnBas5

    With this kind of surplus, you can even use power to gas / power to liquids!
    (Lowest efficiency power to gas, no co-generation, is 30%.)

  • timpster

    Since they produce so much energy, why don’t they start putting skylights everywhere? they’d have even more excess energy and if they could sell that then it would pay off even more with brighter homes, schools and businesses!

    • Vensonata

      Skylights used to be an energy saving device in moderate climates and incandescent lighting. Not anymore. The energy loss is far greater than an led light source. Even good double pane argon e windows are only r3.5. A decent roof should be r40. If one gets to super windows of r12 they are $100 sq ft plus install. A four foot sq skylight might be $600 installed. That buys a 300 watt pv panel installed which generates 500kwh per year. No heat loss and enough electricity to run the led lights in an entire house.

      • timpster

        Well SHIT!

        What about ample levels of good ole natural light?

        Will skylights just die off you think, since they’re so much more expensive than LED?

        • Dan Hue

          Maybe one day we’ll replace all the windows with flat-screen LED TVs 🙁

  • Marion Meads

    It is excellent that they have biopowered energy plants. The problem with solar PV is that when you are producing excess energy from solar PV, and so most likely is everyone else. So what’s the use of excess energy when no one needs them at that moment? It might as well be worth zero, unless you can store the excess and sell them off during peak times. That is why battery energy storage is the next phase in the move to renewables. Waste to Energy plants are excellent add-ons to your local energy mix as they will help stabilize your supply. The gasifiers and biogas digesters can be operated like the natural gas plant to augment supply.

    • Vensonata

      Marion, battery storage is the first step…2 or 3 days worth of excess PV production. But the holy grail has to be seasonal storage. Seasonal storage at this point can only be hydrogen, even at a 50% loss its better than nothing. Occasionally, if you are lucky there is a natural pond or lake than can be pumped up to, but too rare to be significant for most situations. Of course, biofuel (wood) has massive density and lasts in storage for years, but won’t store excess electricity. Heat though, can be seasonally stored, with some losses and a fair bit of expense for super insulated water tanks. I’m using them all except for hydrogen…that appears to be the next step.

      • Jenny Sommer

        I don’t know.
        Some sort oft hydraulic rock cylinder might come in cheaper.

        • johnBas5

          Making the hydraulics also costs money.
          Due to the very low energy density, the costs will have everything to do with the equipment built and used, not the stuff hauled up and down.

          • Jenny Sommer

            They say it would be cheaper than hydro.

          • johnBas5

            In places where the geology is not accommodating for (pumped) hydro I can totally believe that, it makes sense.
            Using Power to Gas totally is cheaper then hydro.

          • Jenny Sommer

            Not if you built a huge hydraulic rock storage which would be exactly there where you don’t have the geology for pumped up hydro.
            There is a good chance one of these will get built within the next 20 years.
            Pumped hydro is too expensive to develop at the moment in Germany but wholesale prices will rise when coal plants get closed down.

            Gas does not make much sense if you want to convert it back to electricity. We could store around 120-150TWh in our existing gasgrid though. That would last 2-3 month. At the moment the legal limit for hydrogen is 5%.

            There is obviously enough hydro for Bayern. Verbund, an Austrian utility that also runs a lot of hydro in Bavaria just said that they could provide around 5GW of hydro once they closed their nuclear plants.

            I really hope a hydraulic rock storage will get built. It would be an epic landmark and probably a real tourist attraction.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There are almost no places where PuHS can’t be installed within a reasonable distance.

          • Jenny Sommer

            It depends on the size and pressure I would guess.
            The typical German pumped storage facility is only 0.5GWh.
            The proposed hydraulic storage would store 2000GWh with a piston radius of 500m/1000m cylinder and 500m storage hight.
            The worldwide storage capacity of all pumped storage power stations is at around 124GWh.


      • Marion Meads

        That is why the use of biogas digesters and gasifiers. You can easily store biogas and use them on demand. There are SOFC that can use biogas directly to generate electricity and heat, regardless of sunshine. Then there is the gasifier. You simply restart them when you need to, during extended period of windless sunless days. Your biofuel just stays put when you don’t need to use them. You can stockpile the fuel for gasifier very inexpensively.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Biofuels may be our best solution for deep backup.

          Coal plants converted to biomass and fed wood pellets might be a good deep solution. The coal plants are paid for and the site will probably already have storage for a few days of operation.

          I don’t see us storing biogas if we can mix it into the regular NG distribution system. We’ll more likely use it on a regular basis to reduce the amount of NG we extract and keep the turbines attached to the regular gas lines.

          • Marion Meads

            The excess biogas from dairy farms in California are in fact injected directly into the NG distribution system.

    • johnBas5

      The use of excess energy is to counter the energy lossess when storing, transmitting and converting energy.
      Batteries have self discharge.
      Batteries don’t have a 100% energy conversion efficiency.

      With Power to Gas you can use the overproduction to counter the conversion losses and make renewable work.

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