If you were looking on the map for a place in the world that can be considered a (or) paradise for renewable energies, don’t lose sight of Germany and, within it, direct your gaze towards Bavaria. There, a town of just over 2,500 inhabitants, Wildpoldsried, has become a benchmark. Its neighbors bet on the energy transition two decades ago and, thanks to that anticipation capacity, today they are not only self-sufficient, but also have a surplus that brings them significant income.
Populated mainly by ranchers and, therefore, with an abundance of cow excrement, this town knew how to make the most of its main resources. Among them is also the wind that blows in this area of Germany. This is partly the origin of this energy revolution at the local level, in which the public support measures activated in Germany for this type of project have also played a role, as well as the push from the public, which started after a farmer decide to take the first step.
The initiative of Wendelin Einsiedler, who before the turn of the century already opted to invest his savings in solar panels, a biogas generator and a wind turbine, was the starting point of a project that, from personnel, soon became collective. Their bet, and the conviction that they could not continue burning fossil fuels permanently for heating, laid the foundations for the creation of a company owned by several neighbors. Likewise, it motivated the City Council to ask the public in 1999 about how they viewed their town more than 20 years later. Unsurprisingly, most of them turned to the energy transition.
From these grounds, Wildpoldsried has today become a unique place, with more than 2,000 square meters of photovoltaic panels for the use of solar energy. To generate energy from the wind, there are more than ten installed wind turbines, with a capacity of up to 12 megawatts. Biogas plants, hydroelectric facilities and the use of biomass for the heating system have just outlined the map of resources for the use of renewables that this town has been endowing with.
If already, in 2011 the town produced three times the energy it needed to consume, today the surpluses are even greater. With them, the investment for which the neighbors bet years ago is rewarded, not only with their self-sufficiency and with the satisfaction of having put aside fossil energy sources, but also in the form of income, which is obtained from the sale of surplus energy to the national electricity grid.
Thus, this town has become a world reference, both for the model promoted and for the way it is done; since it was the desire of the neighbors that drove all this change. Now, the arrival of international delegations that visit this corner of Bavaria to learn about their experience is constant. As they say, the “energy people” have received the visit of around 400 specialists from around the world.
However, with the law in hand, achievements like those in this town are now more difficult to achieve, at least in this state. The decision of its head, the Christian Social Union, to prohibit the construction of turbines when they are less than 2 kilometers from a residence (previously the distance was one kilometer), except when it is decided unanimously by the neighbors, can make Wildpoldsried an example almost impossible to replicate.