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THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA

24 October 2017
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A future of green life and energy for Lithuania?


In the German city of Freiburg environment and economy are not antagonists. On the contrary, the environmental economy is the leading business sector in both town and region.

The town Freiburg in South-West Germany is the home of solar technology pioneers. The sunny university town has been writing solar success stories for more than 30 years. Maybe something similar could be done in Lithuania?

The view on one side of Freiburg takes you to Schlierberg; on the other, it stretches as far as the meadows and forests of Schönberg. On top of this long office and shop building in Merzhauserstrasse, solar architect Rolf Disch has built a number of penthouses. They aren’t normal penthouses. Barbara Schweer, who has now lived in one of the houses for two years with her husband Martin Hoyer and their daughter, produces some impressive energy figures: the family need less than 4,000 kilowatt hours a year for heating and hot water, which corresponds to the heating value of less than 400 litres of oil.  

The heat is piped in from a nearby wood-fired power plant. “In the first year we only had heating costs of 300 euros,” says Schweer. That is really an achievement in a house with 167 square metres of living space. Optimal heat insulation is part of the recipe for success. Even on January days when temperatures fall to around freezing point, the house often doesn’t need any heating once the sun comes out from behind the clouds for a while. That’s because the south-facing glass façade captures the oblique winter sunlight, while later in the year the high summer sun is prevented from shining directly into the rooms – the house has been very intelligently designed. And the family all agree that the interior climate is ideal inside a building that contains large amounts of wood.

“Plus Energy House” is the name Architect Rolf Disch uses to describe the building, because over the year it produces more energy than its inhabitants consume. The solar electricity generating unit on the roof feeds nearly 9,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year into the grid. If you deduct the family’s own electricity needs as well as the heating energy they use, you’re left with an annual surplus of some 2,000 kilowatt hours. That’s also well worth it financially: the monthly costs of just under 100 euros for electricity and heating are offset by income of almost 400 euros from the solar generator. Architect Disch speaks self-confidently of a “monthly energy income” and prophesies: “Additional costs for housing will eventually be transformed into additional income.” Disch has already built 47 of these plus energy houses at the foot of the Schlierberg in Freiburg – some as penthouses, some as terraced houses.

Not far away stands the Heliotrop – yet another innovation from Disch’s office. It is a revolving solar house that follows the sun, thereby enabling it to draw the maximum benefit from the incoming rays. It was the first plus energy house in Germany and is now one of Freiburg’s most frequently visited solar projects.

Freiburg really doesn’t have any shortage of solar innovations. They also include the solar factory. During the mid-1990s, when the future of the solar industry in Germany was still rather uncertain, Georg Salvamoser boldly founded a solar module factory in Freiburg and was able to celebrate the nationwide launch of a highly promising industry in February 1996. Although other German solar firms overtook it long ago in terms of size, Freiburg im Breisgau can still claim it was the pioneer – as is so often the case when innovations in the solar energy field are concerned.

The main pacesetter for Freiburg’s solar progress is the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE). With a total of over 500 employees and more than 18,000 square metres of offices, laboratories and test areas, the ISE is today the largest solar research institution in Europe. The Fraunhofer Institute is also so successful because the staff here steadfastly maintained their belief that solar energy would eventually make a breakthrough. The new institute building, which was only opened in autumn 2001, soon became too small again and some of the scientists and equipment have already moved to the neighbouring building and the Solar Info Center (SIC).

The SIC is another highlight of Solar City Freiburg: the modern building near Freiburg’s exhibition and conference centre is considered a nationwide competence centre for the solar industry. Its 14,000 square metres of space allow various firms to work together under one roof in a variety of different ways on the subjects of renewable energy, solar construction and energy-efficiency. The spectrum ranges from one-person firms with 20 square metres of office space to large, internationally renowned businesses.

One of these is Concentrix Solar, a company that was founded in 2005 as a spin-off from the ISE. Since February 2006, Good Energies, one of the leading strategic investors in the field of renewable energies, has held a stake in the young firm that produces concentrator power plants for sunny locations. An optical system consisting of Fresnel lenses, very thin lenses, concentrates the sunlight onto a small high-performance solar cell. These solar cells transform the light, which has been concentrated almost 500 times, directly into electrical energy. Using its Flatcon® technology, Concentrix was the first company to develop a terrestrial application for the high-efficiency solar cells that had previously only been used in space.

Today these solar cells already achieve excellent efficiency rates of 35%. “By using high-efficiency solar cells, the concentration of light and high precision in positioning the solar cells, Concentrix realizes module efficiency levels of more than 26%,” says CEO Hansjörg Lerchenmüller. Compared to conventional silicon technology, Concentrix has been able to almost double the all-important module efficiency. Concentrix is now regarded nationwide as a highly innovative solar specialist – and a solar success story. Only recently, at the beginning of 2008, the company was honoured with the Innovation Award of the German Economy. The new modules will now also be produced in Freiburg from the middle of 2008, which is considered a success for the solar city, because other regions had made strong attempts to attract the innovative solar specialists from Freiburg.

Yet this is by no means the end of the list of Freiburg’s solar projects. For example, no other German city is more committed to advancing solar climatization, and Freiburg offers not one, but two pilot projects in this area: at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) building and the university hospital. Furthermore, for many years now Freiburg with its 200,000 inhabitants has been at the top of the “Solarbundesliga”, the ranking of solar energy use in German towns and cities.

Although in the harsh reality of professional soccer SC Freiburg may only play in the second division, even in its struggle for goals and points it fulfills its solar obligations. Some 2,200 square metres of photovoltaic cells on the roof of the Dreisam Stadium generate roughly two million kilowatt hours of solar electricity a year. In combination with the environmentally friendly Stirling engines that form part of its heating strategy, SC Freiburg generates more than half of its entire electricity needs itself – emission-free.

Why has solar energy developed in such an exemplary way in Freiburg? Why are there so many innovative solar projects here? Perhaps because the city is located in one of Germany’s sunniest regions. Perhaps also because solar energy has always been linked in Freiburg with the image of “green”, ecological quality of life. Most probably, however, the main impetus came from events that occurred over three decades ago: in the 1970s there were plans to build a nuclear power station before the gates of Freiburg in Wyhl on the Kaiserstuhl. But the people of the region opposed it and thousands of them occupied the construction site in February 1975. Eventually they were able to prevent the building of the reactor after years of political campaigning.

However, the campaigners did not stop at protest, they also developed ecological alternatives. Only a year after the occupation of the construction site, a first solar energy fair was held in the nearby wine-growing municipality of Breisach. That represented the birth of Solar City Freiburg. Today more than 10,000 people in Freiburg work in the environmental and solar sectors explains Bernd Dallmann, Freiburg’s economic development specialist, who is still working hard to enhance the city’s green image. In fact, a few weeks ago, Freiburg decided to call itself a “Green City” – bright prospects indeed for the solar city at the foot of the Black Forest.

Based on an article by Bernward Janzing,
http://www.magazin-deutschland.de

Category : Featured black / Lithuania today



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