Despite the typical cloudy weather, Germany has become a solar energy powerhouse fueled in part by government measures to reduce greenhouse gases and bring more renewable energy into the grid. Voluntary solar arrays are common throughout the country on barns, residences and in large solar plants, but a new law proposed in Marburg, Germany, is making solar a legal requirement on private and commercial buildings.
This small German college town of Marburg in central Germany has over 100 pubs, has more stairs in its alleys than in its houses, and is where the Brothers Grimm collected many of their fairy tales. It is truly a city of inspiration and historic significance. On June 20th, the town made 21st century history by becoming the first city in Germany to require solar power for newly built or renovated buildings. While all the reports say it is the first city in Germany, I can’t find any information that doesn’t disprove it may be the first city in the world to require solar power.
The law will officially come into effect October 1, 2008, after the city has worked out more of the details. The Mayor of Marburg, Fritz Kahle, says of the decision, “We don’t want to save the world and we don’t claim that Marburg will revolutionize climate action, but we must chart new territory in order to ensure a future supply of energy independent of oil and gas.”
This law will require newly constructed buildings or existing buildings that are expanded or altered by more than 20% to include solar panels as part of the heating system. The main goal of this law is to encourage the use of solar thermal systems to displace the use of non-renewable energy sources for heating. Photovoltaic systems also meet the requirement. Each building is required to install at least 1 square meter per 20 square meters of roof surface (that’s 5% of the roof surface).
Certain historically significant buildings, such as the Marburg Castle, Elisabeth Church and the City Hall will be excluded from the requirement. Meanwhile any commercial or residential building that violates the law will be subject to a €1,000 fine. The city estimates that the cost of the system will be around €4,000 per household, with a €250 subsidy provided by the city.
Why is the city not setting a good example by putting panels on the City Hall? How did they decide on 5% of the roof surface as a good standard? Why is their subsidy so low? All of these are relevant questions, but we don’t have the answers just yet. Still, it’s nice to see that even small cities are starting to be more forward thinking with their codes and requirements. It’s certainly not surprising to see that a German city is leading the way.