Germany embraced the idea of using renewable energy sources in effort to reduce carbon emissions a long time ago, and in recent years, it has become the world’s largest renewable energy market, with a large portion of the energy the country consumes coming from sources like wind, solar, biomass, and hydro power. Lately, a small village in the south of Germany has been making headlines with its commitment to renewable energy, as it has managed to transform its energy infrastructure and produce all of its electricity through renewable sources. It’s called Wildpoldsried, situated in the German state of Bavaria, and it became famous in the global energy community in 1997, when it first started to produce electricity from alternative sources.
Now, almost two decades after the first renewable energy projects were launched by mayor mayor Arno Zengerle, Wildpoldsried has reached an important milestone, with Navigant Research reporting that the town currently produces 500% more energy than it needs, and it is all generated through renewable energy systems. Wildpoldsried, with a population of 2,600, now has a huge surplus of energy, which it sends back to the grid, for a profit.
This major success is undoubtedly result of the town’s considerable investments in renewable energy systems over the past 17 years. At the moment, Wildpoldsried has a wide variety of renewable energy facilities, including 11 wind turbines that have a capacity of about 12 MW, solar photovoltaics with a 4,900 kWp capacity, that are mostly mounted on private homes, along with five biogas plants, three hydro power plants, and a solar thermal system. What’s even more admirable, many projects were financed by the town’s residents themselves, with a small help from the Bavarian Government.
The investments in these facilities have helped the town meet the goal of producing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources much sooner than planned, as the deadline was set for 2020, but three years ago, it was already producing over 300% more energy than needed. The excess electricity that was produced in 2011, brought the town a profit of $5.7 million, as it was sold back to the power grid.
However, having so much more electricity than needed, presented a problem of a different kind for the town and the local utility company Allgäuer Überlandwerke GmbH (AÜW), since all of a sudden, it had an enormous amount of excess electricity that it didn’t had the capacity to store and distribute. That’s why the company partnered up with Siemens to develop the Integration of Regenerative Energy and Electrical Mobility (IRENE) system, integrating sensors at the plants producing electricity from renewable sources, to determine exactly how much energy is produced and consumed at each facility, and stabilize the grid with the help of a variable transformer. This joint project cost $6 million, which is not that big of an investment, considering that the town earns more than $7 million a year by selling the excess electricity.
This small and remote Bavarian town can serve as a great example to communities around the globe – such as the small town of Krommenie, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands with its solar-powered bike paths – as they try to reduce their carbon footprint and curb their dependence on fossil fuels.
Jordan Perch is a transport analyst and expert in consumer affairs for the automotive industry. He is an author on topics related to public transport, specifically the use of ride-sharing and car-sharing services, and their impact on mass transit. He is a regular contributor to SolarFeeds, the IHS GlobalSpec and DMV.com’s blog and a proud owner of a Tesla Model S.