Local and Participative Approach

Germany is one of the global leaders in the use of renewable energy. An insight into this subject was provided by two German companies to managers from Belarus, India, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam in the autumn of 2015.

The day started with the topic of wind power and a visit to the community wind farm Hollich in the district of Steinfurt. An introduction to the funding model „Bürgerwindpark“ (“Citizens’ Wind Farm”) and the benefits offered by community funding with participation of local residents was followed by a visit to the wind farm itself. From the vantage point at the old Hollich Windmill documenting the historical use of wind power in the region, the group had a good view of the 35 wind generators. When all the generating units become operational by the end of the year, a total installed capacity of 77,5MW will produce about 170 million kWh of electricity. This yield of power will be enough to cover the energy needs of approx. 42,500 three-person households. Next up was a visit to one of the newly erected turbines. With an overall height of 196 m and a rotor diameter of 131 m, its dimensions are very impressive. A good view is afforded not only of the exterior, but also inside the wind turbine tower housing the generator and the control system and up the whole height of the tower. The participants of the Manager Training Programme (MP) were very keen to learn not only about the technology itself, but also about the administrative approval procedures and about the possibility of implementing the principle of community funding in their own countries.

The substation built especially for the wind farm transforms the 380 kV AC voltage fed by the wind turbines into the grid of the wind farm, down to a lower voltage to be fed into the public grid. Subsequently, the electric current is distributed in the region. Many questions were asked and a lively discussion developed about the power grid and the difficulties associated with connecting the system and feeding the renewable energy into the public grid.

The third stop of the tour was a visit to the community biogas plant jointly operated by 46 farmers forming the Bioenergie Steinfurt GmbH & Co. KG. Here, too, the residents of Steinfurt can invest in the plant and get a fair return on their capital. And once again, it was not only technology which aroused considerable interest of the visitors, but also the local and participatory approach which gave participants new ideas for their own projects.

After a short lunch break, the visit came full circle, as the biogas produced by the plant is transported through the local gas network to the municipal utilities where it is used by the cogeneration plant to generate electricity and heat for the local residents. Accompanied by the managing director of municipal utilities, the guests visited a modern combined heat and power plant, which generates a total of 7 million kW/h of electricity and 4 million kW/h of heat.

Thus the overall concept provided the participants with a good example of how one can save fossil energy using local resources and at the same time create new jobs.

By Christina Morgenstern
trAIDe GmbH, Cologne