The 'Green City', Freiburg, Southern Germany
Having spent a couple of days familiarising myself with Freiburg before meeting the Environment Agency's "solar executive", Thomas Dresel, I could fully understand why the phrases "Green competence" and Germany's "Green City" spring to mind.
Armed with my solar guide of Freiburg and a camera I could jump on one of the efficient trams which keep the hustle and smog of cars out of the town centre and choose whichever ‘model' district I was interested in seeing. The world's first ever citizen-owned solar football stadium was tempting but of greater interest was the Vauban district, a truly sustainable neighbourhood, 10 minutes from the city centre which contains a combined heat and power (wood chip) plant for heating, numerous ‘passive' houses equipped with solar thermal or PV units and innovations, such as solar garages and solar community centres. It is an incredible showcase with people just going about their everyday lives whilst living and breathing sustainability!
On the right: "House 37" - Community Centre in Vauban District, with PV and solar heating units.
With a history of successful anti-nuclear protests and innovative ‘greenies' coupled with a governing Green Party for the city and a string of visionary Mayors, this small city of 200,000 has led the way in solar development for the region.
Surrounded by the stunning Black Forest and numerous vineyards, geographically Freiburg is very well positioned for solar energy and with the backing of an excellent tariff for householders (fixed over 20 years), grants from the government, and excellent bank loans, the community are now pumping 12MW of solar power into the grid annually.
The Öko-Institute (below) is located within the "live-work" district of Vauban in Freiburg. The photovoltaic installation generates electricity for the offices directly.
Freiburg´s "Heliotrope House" - Residential and business house built as a proptotype in 1994 which follows the sun to maximise power input.
Thomas explained the unique relationship between citizen, State and the private sector which seems to be the main factor in Freiburg`s sucess. He described it as "political will formation" and since 1986, the city has supported the development of solar energy by means of it`s own projects, funding programmes and spaces. In partnership, the Badenova power company supports the development of renewables with programmes such as innovation funds for water and climate protection.
The big downside for Freiburg and what will most probably prevent it meeting it`s 10% renewables target by 2010 is the anti-wind power lobby by the State (not the people of Freiburg)and an organisation (similar to our Regional Development Agency) has over-ruled any further wind production in Freiburg.