Windswept German island gives power to the local people
By Frank Zeller, AFPPELLWORM, Germany--The clock may tick a little slower on the remote, windswept German island of Pellworm, but when it comes to renewable energy, it has long been ahead of its time.
September 11, 2013, 12:11 am TWN
Home to about 1,000 people and three times as many sheep, the sleepy North Sea outpost of reed-roofed homes, set amid vast tidal mudflats, has for decades been a pioneer in solar and wind power.
Long before Germany's 2011 post-Fukushima energy transition, it started to make its own clean energy — in fact about three times as much as it needs, allowing it to “export” the rest to the mainland.
And like a growing number of German communities, Pellworm has made sure the shift toward a zero-carbon future is driven not by big energy companies but by local people who earn a healthy profit in the process.
“It started in the early 1980s when different types of windmills and solar panels were tested here. Back then the technology was in its infancy,” says island Mayor Juergen Feddersen.
“That's when we first became known as the renewable energy island.”
At first glance, Pellworm does not look like a high-tech pioneer. The island has one police officer, one traffic light and one supermarket. Half a dozen prawn-fishing boats line the picturesque harbor.
With a history of catastrophic floods, the islanders are well-sensitized to climate change and rising seas. At high tide Pellworm is 2 meters (7 feet) below the water level, protected only by dykes.
In centuries past, anyone who damaged the grass-covered sea defenses faced the harshest punishment.
“They were buried in the dyke, dead or alive,” says island historian Walter Fohrbeck.
Today the community deals with the threat of high seas in a more benign manner.