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Self-Reliance+Use Of Local Resources







Self-reliance *Use of local resources* Local generation of energy

Energy towns and villages

Towns and villages that are energy self-sufficient

Nils Laggeroth, of the Swedish Rural network, reports: “In my home village, Brålanda in Dalsland, we have focused on renewable energy. Five years ago we  imported  all the energy we needed to our area but we are now self-sufficient in all types of energy. We produce electricity from about 40 large wind mills, biogas to vehicle fuel from 4 farm based biogas plants and local heating to the village from a heating plant using local products.” Biogas Brålanda   Our village/rural area is now interested in finding cooperation with similar towns and areas in other countries. Would you know if there are any more rural areas like ours?”

I have told him of the historic town of Güssing, in Austria’s Burgenland, visited by ECOVAST members in 2007, where self-sufficiency in energy has been achieved, with no energy imported, except for that in the tanks of outsiders’ vehicles, numbers of which have grown due to the increasing interest in sustainability.


In Germany, the village of Feldheim, with 50 homes, produces 140 times the amount of energy it consumes. As well as a solar powered district heating and 43 wind turbines (not a wind farm, but built in several stages) one community owned, there is a biogas plant fueled by pig manure and local maize sileage, with a wood chip burner used as a back up in winter. In a recent BBC radio 4 interview a farmer said: “money of the village stays in the village...If it is YOUR wind turbine you love it." Another said: “Your own pigs do not smell.” "Success depends on the “democratisation of energy production- people are PROSUMERS of electricity.” A social revolution.

‘Costing the Earth’, BBC Radio 4 . January 30th 2013 - available for 12 months to download: Costing the Earth http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01q8mqh


Energy Town, Güssing. ECOVAST visit 23 February 2007


Renewable energy is a driver for the economy of the region. The historic town of Güssing, 4,000 people within a municipality of 27,200 inhabitants, in Austria’s Burgenland, was part of Hungary for a millennium, and its castle of 1150 on a volcanic core was resilient in the face of Turkish invasions in the C15th and C16th. Formerly an EU Objective 1 area, the district was in the 1990s amongst the poorest economies of Austria, and 70 per cent of workers commuted to Vienna. www.burgenland.at/eu-service

In 1988 the municipality had set its goal to replace the over 6 million € spend on the imports of oil, electricity and other fuels, and in 1990 decided to aim for ‘energy autarchy’- “100 per cent phasing out of fossil energy supply, a new energy concept created to cover the whole energy need through the locally available biomass”. http://www.energyagency.at/service/veranst/elva.htm

This move towards energy autonomy causes us to remember that in the earlier centuries of sieges, those within a castle had to survive for long periods without the possibility of taking in supplies.

Self-sufficiency in energy is now being achieved, with no energy imported, except for that in the tanks of outsiders’ vehicles, numbers of which have grown due to the increasing interest in sustainability. Eco-tourism is a strong income generator – we stayed in the new hotel the “CommInn?”, for parties who visit Europäisches Zentrum für Erneuerbare Energie Güssing (EZFEEG - European Centre for Renewable Energy). http://www.eee-info.net/index_e.html

‘The ecological energy approach proved to be a driving force for the local economy, too. 475 new jobs in 42 enterprises have been created, an impressive example of a sustainable regional development process’.

Güssing has today a rape-oil-refinery for the production of bio-diesel, a district heating unit supplied with wood, and a state of the art biomass-powerplant with a generation of 2 MW electricity and 4.5 MW heat. The construction of this power plant allowed (attainment of) the goal of the ambitious energy concept. Its power generation covers the complete electricity demand of the municipality and also, in combination with the district heating, the heat demand. http://www.eurosolar.de/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=210&Itemid=27

Even more interesting to ECOVAST members,is the relationship between energy and the landscape. The fuel sources are from waste wood and grass, involving no significant change in the appearance of woodland and agricultural field patterns. Waste wood is used, thinnings and branches, not clear felling. Grassland (now devoid of cattle for external, global market reasons) is cropped three times annually (some arable has one wheat harvest in May for bread and two wheat straw harvests later for biogas). All the energy resources are gathered from the modest hectares surrounding the town (despite extensive marshes below the castle).

Traditional farming methods are used, and sileage is composted in the open, then conveyed into two bio-vats for anaerobic digestion. The outputs are heat, methane gas for conversion to electricity, and residue that is used on fields as a soil conditioner (similar to garden compost). Liquids are re-introduced to the process to increase fermentation. No special species of grass/wheat/corn are introduced, and regular ploughing and rotation are favoured, rather than the 10-15 year cultivation of perennial bunchgrass by the Hungarian Agricultural Research Development Institute at Sarvas (as seen at the 2006 European Rural University visit and reported in Energy and its relation to rural well-being - Ideas towards a draft ECOVAST Statement). mkf-kht@szarvas.hu

Profit from the energy enterprises is ‘ploughed back’ into land management. Power plants are in several places around the town including:

  • Biodiesel
  • Biomass ( the plant costing 11million € )
  • Biogas
  • Solar
  • Synthetic gas
  • Pyrotherm
Biomass conversion by pyrolysis is more efficient than by simple burning. 8.2 kWh heat from 1 kg of wood; 2.55 kWh in the district heating network close to the powerplant; 5.65 kWh from the electric power used in the heat pump http://live.pege.org/2005-wood/wood-oven.htm

EU money was essential in the investment. Research and development has been undertaken with the technical University of Vienna.

Phil Turner April 2007 as published in ECOVAST newsletter

"Climate Change is a rural opportunity"

…dealing with climate change is an opportunity. Crops produced in rural areas can be used locally for decentralised energy provision. The know-how of farmers and land-managers can be harnessed to develop new approaches to flooding and climate change mitigation. New technology can help reach dispersed customers and develop decentralised provision in recycling and waste management. These are all areas where new services will not only be needed, but where solutions originating in rural areas can be made available to urban areas as well. One innovative response to climate change, where rural areas play a prominent part, is the Transition Towns initiative. Towns such as Totnes in Devon and Penwith in Cornwall are adopting this community-led model as a response to limited global oil supplies (‘peak oil’) and climate change. Facilitated by the Transition Network – an embryonic charity set up to network the model and provide support – the emphasis is on community defined and -led solutions, implemented locally, underpinned by a clear community of interest. The towns are linked by a shared website See http://www.transitiontowns.org

Rural Innovation NESTA the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. http://www.nesta.org.uk/ December 2007 Chapter 6 Innovation in Rural Public Services Frances Rowe Rural Manager, One NorthEast? Regional Development Agency, North East England, UK

Pellworm Island, Germany – wind turbines and solar ‘farm’ owned and run by the local community.

Hybrid photovoltaic systems most commonly take the form of photovoltaic systems combined with wind turbines or diesel generators. They would most likely be found on islands, yet they could also be built in other areas. The largest European PV system used as a part of the hybrid system is located on Pellworm Island in Germany. A very large hybrid system was also built on the Canary Islands http://www.iklimnet.com/save/windturbineshybrid.html

La Desirade (France), Fiji, Samsoe (Denmark), Pellworm (Germany) and Reunion (France) are currently producing more than 50% of their electricity from renewable energy sources. Some islands have set targets of becoming a Renewable Energy Island in the short or medium term. Samsoe (Denmark), Pellworm (Germany), Aeroe (Denmark), Gotland (Sweden), El Hierro (Spain), Dominica and St. Lucia have an explicit target of becoming 100% self-sufficient from renewable energy sources. http://www.inforse.dk/publications_pro.php3?id=20

Pellworm is a north Frisian island. http://www.oeko-verein-pellworm.de/

It is located in mudflats and protected by high dykes from the surrounding Wadden Sea National Park. Much of the surface area of 37 sq. km lies up to 1.0 m below sea level. Agriculture, tourism and service are the main economic sectors. There has been great structural change within agriculture and so most of the little farms have had to give up. Along with this, the demographic structure has changed. The number of inhabitants is decreasing – nowadays about 1,100 people live on the island, but the percentage of people over 60 years old is increasing in inverse proportion. Tourism has increased considerably in importance. Nearly every household has invested in tourist accommodation facilities. The main tourist season runs from June to the beginning of September with very little or no tourism for the rest of the year. There are no sandy beaches on Pellworm, no discos, no shopping centres. You will only find small supermarkets, some shops and a few restaurants. Tourists visiting the island are attracted by the tranquillity, the pure climate, and the surrounding national park. The island is well established as a “green island” as it has been involved in renewable energy for a long time. In the early 80’s the first testing area for windmills was established on Pellworm. In 1990 OW was founded by a group of concerned farmers, business people, housewives, craftsmen, teachers, fishermen, and local doctors. “Okologisch Wirtschaften!” means “run the economy in an ecologically friendly way”, or to put it the other way round “let there be economic advantages from ecologically friendly working”. A strategy for local development on the island was worked out founded on the basic concept that all economic (and social) sectors on the island are dependent on each other. This strategy aimed to demonstrate possibilities for halting the ongoing loss of population, and fighting the imminent death of the island by means of ecologically friendly development. The topical aims of OW are: - Promoting ecologically friendly agriculture, tourism and energy supply on Pellworm - Processing and refining local products in the island - Direct marketing of ecologically products - Turning geographic and economic disadvantage into ecological and economic advantage In the early years there were 4 committees within OW which did most of the work – tourism, energy supply, agriculture, and consumer affairs, each developing its own projects and ideas. A co-ordinating office was established, funded by the Ministry of the Environment. OW put the main emphasis on agricultural development, and looked for clues to halt the dangerous downward spiral forcing farmers to give up their farms. Ecologically friendly farming seemed to offer the possibility of more independence from the mainland. Six farmers converted to organic production, producing vegetables, milk, crops and meat. They co-operated in the production of fodder and the joint care of livestock, in processing their produce, sharing machinery, and exchanging land, and they also founded a marketing co-operative to sell their products locally. The work of “Okologisch Wirtschaften” concentrated on the commercialisation of these products. Looking back with hindsight it appears now that OW’s expectations had been too high regarding comprehension and acceptance of their ideas. All that remains now are market stalls on the mainland and in Pellworm, and one farm shop. It’s still unclear why the ideas didn’t work as well as they could have – even cooperation with gastronomy didn’t work, although for a longer period many guests asked for local produce. One partner in the Bio-farmers had to revert back to conventional farming. However those who were able to maintain ecological farming practices are convinced they are doing the right thing, and OW is continuing to support and work for that. Since tourism is greatly increasing in importance a working group is in charge of designing projects for sustainable tourism. In summer OW offers ecological bicycle tours to enable visitors to participate in the local development programme. The tour takes in organic farms and renewable energy plants (solar panels, photovoltaic plant, wind generators) Tourists get a practical insight into what OW means when it talks about an ecologically friendly economy. These tours are much appreciated by the guests. Another project within the tourist sector is an educational programme for ecological affairs which is offered within the German Education - Programme for Employees. Pellworm was one of the 6 participating islands in the Eco-Islands-Project, a European initiative towards sustainable development. The aim of the project was to form a network of islands for the exchange of experiences on the possibilities for sustainable development. Pellworm and OW directed their main focus on workshops on renewable energy, soft tourism, and direct marketing. The “Wool-Connection” cooperative was established between an organic farm and an old spinning mill on the island of Hiiumaa, Estonia. Ecologically produced wool from Pellworm was processed on Hiiumaa; the finished pullovers came back to Germany and were sold with the help of OW. The project surplus was transferred back to Hiiumaa to set up soft tourism on the Estonian island. OW is a member of the European Network for Experiences in Sustainable Development (ENESD), and the first pilgrimage of the ENESD touring exhibition stopped off in Pellworm in October 1998. The work and ideas of OW were reviewed by a number of visitors from several European countries, and members of OW did the same for other partners within the ENESD. Along with the international contacts within the Eco-Islands Project, this was the starting point of international relationships continuing within Forum Synergies. Discussion about the wind-park on Pellworm almost split people in the island into two mutually hostile groups, but OW as an association committed to the concept for renewables as the whole energy supply on Pellworm. An analysis of demand and a first broad outline of the concept was made in 1993 – 1994. A second study was set up with several partners from universities and the north Germany energy supply company to work out a plan for local development. The results were presented to the public entitled “Energy Supply on the basis of renewable energy sources using the example of the North Sea island Pellworm.” In preparation for EXPO 2000, the local government body and OW founded the Bureau of Energy Supply as a joint venture. The main task was to provide the impetus for converting the renewable energy concept into practical reality. The Bureau was the consultant for private households and local authorities in any question of sustainable energy supply. When the financial support from the local energy-supply company “Schleswag AG” was restricted in 2001, the office had to be closed. One of the main issues was to solve the question how the Pellworm energy supply could become totally independent from the mainland, so a study was undertaken on setting up a biomass plant with a geothermal reservoir. This unique and innovative biomass plant would fill the gap existing within the energy supply from renewable resources. To end up with, the local government body decided it preferred a biomass plant with the sole aim of producing electricity (and money). A newly-formed profit-orientated association is now proceeding to plan a smaller version of the biomass plant without the participation of OW. Pellworm was a partner project with the county of Schleswig-Holstein at EXPO 2000 within the project “Dorf 2000”. (Village 2000) This was an experimental representation of the future of the countryside, with the emphasis on coastal protection, Nature protection, and sustainable energy supply in accordance with the renewable energy concept. When the German Ministry for Customer Protection and Agriculture set up a programme called “Regionen Activ”, the objective being integrated policies for local development in the countryside, it seemed that at last here was a programme which fitted all the ideas OW had developed for many years. With agreement from the local government body, OW members wrote the application papers, and the north Frisian region Uthlande (Pellworm and the islands of Fohr, Amrum, Sylt, and Nordstrand) was accepted as one of the 16 model regions within the federal republic. OW tried to involve more NGO’s in this process as one of the programme’s objectives was to build joint schemes between government and NGO’s for planning the future of rural areas. But when the money came in and the management was filled, none of the OW members was included, and the district council started a campaign against OW. After a long and sometimes painful struggle which included some serious personal attacks, the Board and members of OW decided to concentrate on smaller and more concrete projects of its own. As OW itself is a non-profit organisation, the Pellworm Country Trade Company was founded by members of OW some years ago to run profit-orientated projects. So now this company is undertaking studies on vegetable processing, wool processing, a slaughterhouse, and energy consultancy. The profits will be used for investment in vegetable processing, the slaughterhouse, and so on. Maybe this time, in another way, OW will be able to turn disadvantage into advantage. Back to our roots perhaps - we’re sure this is the way to regain the energy we felt we lost in struggling with local authorities. For now we’ll concentrate on strengthening what OW has already achieved and not try to convince the whole island of the possibilities of running the entire economy in an ecologically friendly way. Maybe OW is still young and a little bit foolish, but we continue to be optimistic. June 2003 http://www.oeko-verein-pellworm.de/ecolinkEnglish.pdf

September 2005 Decommissioning - Recycling Pellworm, Germany [RenewableEnergyAccess?.com] Germany's SolarWorld? AG is going to take over the recycling of Germany's oldest large-scale solar power plant built in 1983 -- and expanded in 1993 -- on the North Sea island of Pellworm. The 600 kW solar power generating plant was operated until recently by the North German utility E.ON Hanse AG and is now undergoing modernization.

After the disassembly of the first 300 KW of this historic solar power plant the more than 20-year-old solar modules made by AEG-Telefunken will be turned back into newer, higher-efficiency solar silicon wafers by a recycling process developed by the SolarWorld? Group itself.

According to company officials, the SolarWorld? Group is so far the only company to offer solar recycling. They are currently working on building up a voluntary collection and retrieval system for spent and damaged solar modules and cells. http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com/rea/news/story?id=37018