The Tesla Twitter-sphere has been roiling again. First, the all-electric car company said in planning documents that its newest manufacturing plant — “Gigafactory 4” or “Giga Berlin” — would need 372 cubic meters of water from the public drinking water network per hour. After protests from local residents, Tesla CEO Elon Musk sought to clarify the numbers and get out of German water wars, suggesting that the initial numbers were more indicative of peak times than average usage, and the company might never hit that figure.
Sounds like we need to clear up a few things! Tesla won’t use this much net water on a daily basis. It’s possibly a rare peak usage case, but not an everyday event. Also, this is not a natural forest — it was planted for use as cardboard & only a small part will be used for GF4.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2020
The planned Tesla plant is located near Grünheide. But, recently, concerns have been raised about protecting the environment in the area, especially regarding the water supply. BUND (Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland) — a collective of independent political and business organizations totaling up to 2000 voluntary groups in Germany — met with Tesla and other environmental associations to discuss possible environmental pollution from Gigafactory 4.
Steffen Schorcht, a BUND rep and resident of nearby Erkner, is afraid of problems with the water supply and its possible regional environmental consequences. He stated that Tesla representatives were surprised about the problem and the requirements for the water protection zone. “If there is no water there, Tesla will not come,” the company spokesman reportedly said in an interview with environmentalists.
Schorcht praised the meeting with Tesla as a “frank conversation. … The mood was very positive. Too bad this has not happened before.”
Tesla revised the documents to reflect the content of these conversations, Axel Heinzel-Berndt of BUND told RBB, a German news agency. The goal is to reduce water consumption to 238 cubic meters. The reductions would come by utilizing wastewater and using other cooling systems. A supplement (in German) to the original documentation is available online.
BUND deals with regional issues such as maintaining conservation areas, mobilizing against factory farming, organic agriculture and nutrition, expanding the use of renewable energy, protecting endangered species, forests, and water.
Musk tweeted that only a small part of the forest on the property that Tesla bought in the outskirts of Berlin will be cut to construct the planned factory.
Affirming the company’s advanced planning was sound, Musk tweeted, “This is not a natural forest — it was planted for use as cardboard.” In a subsequent tweet, he assured BUND and other groups that the “net environmental impact will be extremely positive!”
Tesla is still negotiating with local officials for the proposed plant, which is located in a water conservation zone situated within a forest that borders a nature preserve.
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