100% Renewable Energy Goal Achieved:
100+% Renewable Power Region, On Its Way to 100+% Renewable Heat [Read more about the project ]
Interview with Cort-Brün Voige,
Project Group Renewable Energy in the Region of Aller-Leine-Tal
1. What inspired the decision for your community to pursue your 100% renewable energy goal?
Our project has been divided/structured into several time periods:
First Phase - 1996 - 2001: Focus on wind energy with the installation of a citizens-owned wind turbine and the joint planning of the municipalities in the region for priority sites for wind energy.
Second Phase - 2001 - 2006: Focus on solar energy with more than 50 projects (see also our site www.alt-energieprojekt.haeuslingen.de under the menu item "Sonne auf's Dach," which means "Sun on the Roof.")
Third Phase - 2007- Present: Summary and continuation of the project with the aim of becoming a "100+ % renewable energy region." Currently, in all eight municipal councils, policy decisions are taken for this purpose (see below www.rethem.de under "Energy Region +") Our goal is a 100+% supply plus in the electricity and heat sectors. The project includes a steering group made up of members of our project team, local political and administrative leaders, artisans, representatives of local banks, as well as professionals from science, agriculture and forestry fields.
This is just good networking for our project one of the great advantages that will guarantee success!
2. What mix of technologies have you used and/or do you intend to use? Why have you made these choices?
The Aller-Leine Valley has quite a balanced mix of wind-photovoltaic and biogas plants. Lower Saxony is the worldwide "region for biogas plants," an achievement that is being led by the County of Heidekreis, along with the Counties of Celle, Rotenburg, Cloppenburg and Vechta. Heidekreis is the county with the highest performance of grid-connected biogas plants per capita. In the Aller-Leine Valley region, there are 8 biogas plants with an operating capacity of approximately 9 MW. This is due to the spatial conditions: There is a large amount of land with low quality soil, but which is good enough to grow corn, the primary "food" for biogas plants. (Editor's note: In Germany, there is land that is deemed too poor in soil quality to grow food , but which is allowed to be used for "energy crops." This low grade soil is ample in Aller-Leine Valley.) That said, we are also strong in photovoltaics, with many large roofs on farms and large companies that can be used for solar installations. Also our sparse population is ideal for wind power, with any uninhabited areas also having the benefit of good network infrastructure.
Installed Renewables (2012)
Biogas: 18 plants totaling 10.13 MW with investment of 42 million euros.
Wind Turbines: 54 totaling 87.62 MW with investment of 127.5 million euros
Water, Hydro Power: 5 plants totaling 5.39MW with investment of 0.1 million euros.
Solar PV: 710 Systems totaling 10.21 MW with investment of 26.5 million euros
Solarthermal: 10,350 square meters installed with investment of 13.3 million euros
Total investments in the last 15 years = 209 million euros = 2,800 euros per capita in the region.
The Energy Balance:
The electricity demand: 267.1 Gwh (2010)
Supplied by renewables: a total of 286.7 Gwh (107.3%):
Windpower: 169.7 Gwh – 63.5%
Hydro power: 28.5 GWh - 10.7%
Biogas: 80.1 Gwh 30%
Solar PV: 8.4 Gwh 3.1%
3. What have been the greatest obstacles so far? If you have overcome any of them, how did you do it?
The major obstacle was the initial skepticism among the population and among parts of the policy sector. With strong and sustained public relations and through various discussions with relevant opinion leaders, our plans have in a few years' time (!) worked. After the first results were visible, the skeptics became more and more silent, and now some are enthusiastically attracted. Additionally, we have always made sure that when implementing wind and solar photovoltaic projects, citizen participation was possible. (In biogas systems we haven't achieved this citizen participation.) Thus, the acceptance of the people in the region has increased substantially with "their" wind energy and photovoltaic systems.
Finally, it has been very important to always have "honest" communication. There is nothing which is all good or all bad - the advantages and disadvantages are to be laid out in the open, then weighed, then we make a decision.
4. Were there policies that were particularly effective to helping your project advance? Were there any policies or regulations that stood in your way, and if so, how have you handled this?
Yes, the municipal bodies have supported the project since 1996. We haven't received financial support from the local municipalities, but we have received administrative support. The state of Lower Saxony contributed nearly the entire budget of approximately 80,000 euros for an exemplary energy survey (Energy Study 2011). The study is available on www.rethem.de under the menu item "Energy Region +." In addition, the local authorities have commissioned a study of geothermal potential for the entire region. This is also available on the above website.
5. What have been the greatest benefits of your project so far?
The value added in the region is the biggest benefit. The community benefits through additional taxes (excise tax from biogas and wind turbines - income taxes of contractors). Citizens benefit from the feed-in tariffs from the EEG and the entrepreneurs from the installation and support of the systems (PV systems, wind energy and biogas plants). Landowners benefit by increased rental prices for agricultural land (corn for biogas plants). In addition, several jobs have been secured in the region and created by the active participation of the region in the energy transition. (Most recent example: the arrival of the company Freqcon Rethem in 2012 - see also www.freqcon.de - which develops and operates electrical equipment for renewable energy generation systems, currently focusing on the Chinese market.)