3 Top Tips from German Town Going Off the Grid

feldheim

Feldheim, a town in Germany has gone off grid, become energy independent and self sufficient for its energy needs. The 145 residents, 2 business and 2 local authorities now benefit from energy security and reduced energy costs. What was the secret to its success?

Here are my top 3 takeaway tips are for anyone wanting to start something similar or any corporation or local government wanting to understand how to create such a change.

Tip Number 1 

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket 

The important thing in going off grid on this scale is to have a diversity of energy sources. At Feldheim they have selected more than one power generation source. They have installed:

  • 43 wind turbines generating 74.1MW of electricity 
  • 9,844 PV panels generating 2.25MW of electricity
  • Biogas from pig and cow manure, as well as maize and wholegrain cereal generating 4 million kWh of electricity per year as well as feeding hot water into the district heating system (cogeneration)
  • Biomass boiler for peak heating times in the winter

They have also got a planned large scale battery storage system to retain the surplus energy within the town when its generated.

Tip Number 2 

Independence with a private grid 

To maintain control over prices and use of your energy, operate the infrastructure independent of the larger utility companies.

The heating and electricity grids in Feldheim are independent and private from the conventional private utility companies, heat and electricity are fed directly to the residents and businesses of Flendheim.

At Charlestown Square retail centre near Newacastle, GPT run a trigeneration system that feeds electricity directly to its tenants – a privately owned electricity network. GPT manages its energy prices in conjunction with its tenants – both the tenants and the landlord benefit from the private grid.

Tip Number 3

Success through cooperation

One of the keys to the success at Feldheim, was the cooperation of the residents, business and local governments. The heating grid is Feldheim Energie GmbH & Co. KG, a limited partnership formed by the connected households, enterprises and the municipality of Treuenbrietzen.

The electricity grid  grid for supplying electricity to connected consumers is Energiequelle GmbH and Co. WP Feldheim 2006 KG.

Although the residents were unable to fund the entire heating and power infrastructure, they sought and were successful in obtaining additional funding from the regional government and from EU programmes.

The ownership of the infrastructure is embedded within the community of Feldheim, the residents have a vested interest in making sure that the infrastructure has long term success.

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How can these top three tips from Feldheim help you, your community, your business or your local government cooperate on a town scale to create long term energy independence and self sufficiency?

4 Comments on “3 Top Tips from German Town Going Off the Grid

  1. Simon, what are your thoughts on including batteries in a system such as this?

    I can see that batteries would help a small town such as Feldheim stay off the grid and achieve thier own goals. However, once many small towns or larger communities start to install similar systems the inefficiency of batteries would start to increase the total cost of the systems, increasing the energy costs.

    How far should a particular group/community go before it starts to build its own inefficiencies?

    Cheers, DC

    • Thanks DC. Tough question.
      Batteries are great for independence and resilience but can create a “we’re ok, your’e not” mentality – a bit mad max’ish.

      There is a lot of ideas out there about having decentralised energy storage (batteries or electric cars) to even out the peaks and troughs of centralised energy generation. One of the main drivers of electricity costs are the peaks rather than the averages. Connected but decentralised energy storage could be a very worthwhile solution.

      So, my answer would be – batteries do have inefficiencies compared to using the power as its generated, but we will always have peaks and troughs of energy consumption so the inefficiencies of batteries could be outweighed by the increased efficiency of centralised power stations through reducing the peaks and troughs.

      Maybe the batteries should be privately owned but centrally connected so that they could beneficial to a wider community.

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