On a pleasant morning on March 30, 2023, I boarded the bus for a guided tour to Feldheim as a side event of BETD 2023. I was quite thrilled that after two days of sublime energy transition discussions under the motto Energiewende Securing a Green Future where ministers and high-ranking delegations from over 60 countries engaged in discussions with representatives from business, science and civil society, I was about to witness a village in Germany which is completely powered by renewable energy.Besides learning about the background of the energy transition, I was looking forward to getting hands-on experience about Feldheim, an energy self-sufficient community, which has plenty of lessons to share in the sustainability sphere. The journey from Berlin to Feldheim was quite beautiful as we travelled for about 90 minutes on our bus from the impressive cityscape of Berlin to the spectacular countryside.
Feldheim is located 83 kilometres south-west of Berlin. The Feldheim New Energy Forum is located in Feldheim, a tranquil district within the medieval town of Treuenbrietzen (in Brandenburg). Remarkably, Feldheim produces its own energy from wind, sun and biomass and also feeds it into the grid. Their way of functioning has become a role model for communities around the world. The success of this project is due to the good and cooperative partnership between the town of Treuenbrietzen, the residents of the district, the agricultural cooperative Flaming, and the project developer Energiequelle GmbH. Feldheim's hands-on approach to producing its own eco-friendly energy draws thousands of visitors from around the world each year.
The individual households in Feldheim, Treuenbrietzen, are supplied with heat and power from renewable energy power plants on their own doorstep via autarchic local grids or separate distribution networks. The roots of Feldheim's energy prudence date back to 1995, when entrepreneur Michael Raschemann proposed erecting four wind turbines on land owned by the local farming cooperative. The relatively flat and windy landscape proved ideal. In partnership with Energiequelle, Feldheim gradually expanded the wind park to its current size, with 55 turbines. Energiequelle GmbH, renewable energy company that provides project development, planning, and operational management services for wind power, biogas, and photovoltaic plants, designed the various components of this concept. This concept includes cutting-edge, state-of-the-art wind power systems and biogas plants. Energiequelle GmbH installed them as turnkey systems and linked them via the new heat and power distribution system to form a regional energy supply grid.
As Feldheim is located 150 m above sea level, the wind conditions are really good and, therefore, the nearby wind farm is the backbone of the local power supply grid, while heat is supplied by the local biogas plant. The first wind turbine was commissioned in the year 1995 and today 55 wind turbines stand on the high plateau in Feldheim. These 55 wind turbines with an electrical output of 123 MW supply 55,500 households per year.
Feldheim Biogas Plant
Building on the wind farm's accomplishment, the Feldheim farming cooperative decided to build a biogas plant. Commissioned in December 2008, the village of Feldheim has had its own biogas plant with an installed electric power capacity of 526 kW. The plant is operated by the local agricultural cooperative. The annual biomass input is 8600 m/a pig and cattle manure, 8700 tonnes/a of maize silage, and 190 tonnes/a of ground cereals. These raw materials are produced and supplied by the agricultural cooperative. The plant generates 4 million kWh of electricity a year, which is fed into the public grid. The heat produced during power generation is fed into a separately installed district heating grid that supplies the local inhabitants, the livestock farms and commercial enterprises with heating. Each year, around 15,500 m/a of livestock manure are produced as a by-product of power generation and supplied back to the agricultural cooperative. Due to their village being self-sufficient in respect of heating energy, the inhabitants of Feldheim save 259,000 litres of heating oil every year. This definitely means they are not only helping to create a cleaner environment, but are also doing financial savings.
The solar farm Selterhof is built on an ex-military centre. The former 45-hectare Selterhof military site served as a communications hub and depot for 40 years until 1994. Construction of the solar farm began in 2008 and was completed in the same year.In the meantime, 284 trackers with 9844 photovoltaic modules generate a total output of 2.25 MWp.The annual yield,therefore, totals to 2748 MWh. This covers the annual electricity requirements of around 600 four-person households.
Wood Chip Heating
The future planning by the New Energy Forum Feldheim is also quite immaculate. In the forthcoming time, the natural fluctuations in the wind power supply will be compensated through a second expansion phase by a battery storage system of the latest generation.A sophisticated heating plant fired with woodchips is available for additional thermal energy requirements on particularly cold days. The wood chip heating in Feldheim has a thermal output of 299 kW.About 460 bulk cubic metres of pine wood chips are used as input annually.The raw materials are obtained from the surrounding forests.Approx. 295,000 kWh are generated annually, thus avoiding 91 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.The system is switched on at peak times to produce heat.
Local Heating Network
The special feature of the Feldheim concept is the separate local heating and power supply network, through which the heat and electricity generated on-site is routed directly to the consumers.In this way, costs and dependencies on the networks of traditional energy suppliers are avoided.
Feldheim District Heating Grid is operational since 2009. Its length is 3000 m and the supplied entities are 35 homes, 1 industrial unit, 2 communal buildings, and 4 agricultural units.
The gas produced in the biogas plant (BGA) is used to operate a block-type thermal power station (CHP), which generates electrical energy and heat at the same time.The heart of the CHP is a motor with an output of 526 kW, which generates electrical energy via a connected generator.The heat generated during the combustion process is largely not released into the environment, but used to operate the biogas plant and to supply households and businesses in Feldheim. This process, known as combined heat and power, enables a very high level of efficiency and is carbon dioxide neutral, since only the exact amount of carbon dioxide that the plants used previously absorbed is released.
The following are some of the benefits for the local community and environment at Feldheim:
Diversification/commercial use of agricultural products
Security or creation of new jobs in the local farming cooperative
Economical and ecological energy
Increase in value remains in the region, as all input is produced locally
Eliminates the import of 160,000 litres of heating oil
Generation of business tax revenues from wind farms and biogas plant
Potential: the arrival of other clean industries
New Energy Forum (NEF) Feldheim: Education and Information Centre
The town of Treuenbrietzen and the district Potsdam-Mittelmark position themselves as a centre of excellence in the field of renewable energies.
Awards and Accolades
Feldheim is the only renewable energy village in Germany. It is 100 per cent carbon dioxide neutral and also provides cent per cent independent, direct energy supply. It is, therefore, not difficult to guess that Feldheim has won several accolades in the previous years, some of which are as follows:
Bioenergy Village 2010
365 Landmarks in the Land of
German Solarpreis 2014
ELR: Project of the Month, June 2015
Agenda-21-Prize for the region 2016
While I got this golden opportunity of visiting Feldheim and getting a hands-on experience of the awe-inspiring things going on at this energy self-sufficient village, they also offer schools a four- to five-hour long project day. Pupils learn about the energy self-sufficient village of Feldheim and gain compact knowledge of the production, storage, and transportation of energy. Talking about energy self-sufficiency and energy transition in the world, Feldheim is the place to practice it to perfection!
As I bid adieu to Berlin, Germany after the conclusion of the BETD 2023 and Berlin Energy Week on March 31, 2023, my mind fondly recapitulated the amazing things on energy transition that I had learnt here and resolved to disseminate the messages/ideas gathered from this unique conference.#
Abhas Mukherjee, Editor, TERI Publications Division, TERI, participated as a Media Fellow at the recently concluded Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD) 2023 from March 28 & 29, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. He duly acknowledges websites https://nef-feldheim.info/ and https://www.dw.com/ as valuable resources in writing this article along with his own experience during his visit. Pictures courtesy: https://nef-feldheim.info/