Energy  |  Successes  |  23.11.2011

German village produces 321% more energy than it needs through renewables

The small agricultural village Wildpoldsried in the German state of Bavaria tells a story of how to achieve community sustainability in the 21st century by producing 321% more energy than it needs. Through the efforts of the Village Council and its residents, Wildpoldsried has become a blueprint for other villages for how to make way for a renewable future.

The village’s green initiative first started in 1997, when the village council decided that it should build new industries, keep initiatives local, bring in new revenue, and create no debt. Over the past 15 years, the town hall has equipped nine new community buildings with solar panels, built four biogas digesters (with a fifth in construction now) and installed seven windmills with two more on the way. In the village itself, 190 private households have solar panels while the district also benefits from three small hydro power plants, ecological flood control, and a natural waste water system. As a result, the goals set in 1997 took some time to achieve, however, clever thinking and long vision policy definitely paid back. 

The Wildpoldsried community demonstrates how citizens can trigger a change. Even before the ‘Wildpoldsried Innovativ Richtungsweisend’ (Wildpoldsried Innovative Leadership) in 1999 which defined three main priorities for the village: 1) Renewable Energy and Saving Energy; 2) Ecological Construction of Buildings Using Ecological Building Materials; and 3) Protection of Water and Water Resources and Ecological Disposal of Wastewater, the locals were already taking green initiatives. The owner of Schellheimer, a local landscape company, built the first private natural wastewater system for his home. At the time, flooding was a big issue in Wildpoldsried and it was a constant concern for its residents. In 2000, the town hall secured a European Union grant that focused on flood control and rainwater diversion. In the Mayor’s mind, the project could be more comprehensive by including a natural wastewater system for the entire community using wetlands that could release clean water into the local stream. Hence, Schellheimer was assigned to design this project. 

Another example is the common implementation of solar panels by residents. After Germany introduced a new feed-in tariff under the Renewable Energy Source Act of 2000, many people installed solar panels on their houses because the feed-in tariff contract was guaranteed. Today, over 190 households in Wildpoldsried have solar panels producing 3300 kWp; nine municipal buildings are producing 390 kWp. Energy generated from these buildings is sold and the revenue covers the cost of annual maintenance. Any additional profits fund community needs such as musical instruments for the schools and new equipment for the volunteer fire department.

Despite only having a population of 2,600, Wildpoldsried produces 321 percent more energy than it needs. It is generating 4 million Euro in annual revenue by selling it back to the national grid. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a modest farming community that turned a village with no industry into an industry of renewable energy with the help of pioneer local entrepreneurs. Small businesses have sprung up to sell and install technologies and provide services to the renewable energy installations — from solar panels to district heating to the anaerobic digesters and energy efficiency retrofits.

As a result of the village’s success, Wildpoldsried has received numerous national and international awards for its conservation and renewable energy initiatives known as Klimaschutz (climate protection). The council even hosts tours for other village councils on how to start their own Klimaschutz program.

Although this is a perfect example of innovation on the energy side of the Green New Deal, this community is at the same time adhering to other less progressive ideas. For example, criticism has been voiced that intensive conventional farming is still practiced in the village and the biogas obtained is from non-organic manure. Therefore, there is still improving space for Wildpoldsried on other dimensions of the Green New Deal.


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