Over the past decade, no country has embraced renewable energy with as much enthusiasm as Germany. Despite phasing out nuclear power, the country is exporting more energy than ever, thanks largely to its investment in renewable energy. One town in particular stands as a shining beacon of the potential that renewable energy holds: Feldheim, a small village located about 60 kilometers from Berlin that has its own energy grid and generates all of its power from wind, solar and biogas.
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Feldheim is home to just 150 inhabitants, but it has become a major tourist destination in recent years, drawing journalists, delegations and filmmakers from all over the world to marvel at the town’s energy independence. Our friends at TreeHugger recently visited the town to report on new energy developments there. In 2010, the residents of Feldheim each chipped in €3,000 to build their own electric grid, which gave them control over electric prices in the town. The result? Feldheim residents now pay about 30 percent less for electricity.
The move towards renewable energy began in the 1990s, when the town installed a single wind turbine in the town to take advantage of the strong winds in the region. Soon, the wind turbines began multiplying, and now the wind park contains more wind turbines than there are houses in the town. But it isn’t just electricity that Feldheimers get at below-market rates; in 2008, the town built a €1.7 million biogas factory that converts pig manure and unused corn into heat. The biogas facility enables Feldheim residents to lower their heating costs by about 10 percent.
Feldheim didn’t achieve energy independence all at once; it happened somewhat organically, as each piece was added separately. Next, TreeHugger reports, the town will build storage facilities that will be able to hold enough power to meet demand for two days.