By 2009 Feldheim was producing all its own energy with renewable sources. Residents then wanted to take things a step further and free themselves from the large utility company, E.on, which was supplying the grid. E.on refused to either sell or lease the part of its energy grid that ran through Feldheim. So the people took the matter into their own hands, and decided to build their own.
They now pay 31 percent less for electricity and 10 percent less for heating than before. The town consumes less than one percent of the electricity produced annually by its wind turbines and solar panels, selling the rest back to the market. This lowers their electricity bills to around half the national average. The biogas plant not only sells electricity back to the market, but also supplies the entire community with heating, saving over 160,000 litres of heating oil each year. As an added benefit, the plant produces over three million gallons of high-quality fertiliser annually that the agricultural cooperative uses.
There are now more wind turbines than houses in the town. While residents don’t mind the noise or aesthetics of the wind turbines, there has been some opposition from neighboring towns, which didn’t—until recently—directly benefit from the wind farm. “In order to make neighbors feel more at ease with the wind farm, we are offering power at a special rate,” Energiequelle spokesman Werner Frohwitter told RMI. “Our aim is to let as many people as possible directly benefit from our turbines, thus encouraging social acceptance for renewable energies.”
All the renewable projects also created jobs. While other villages in the economically depressed state of Brandenburg have roughly a 30 percent unemployment rate, Feldheim virtually erased its unemployment. Most residents work in the biogas plant or maintain the wind and solar farms. And the town, which doesn’t have a single museum or restaurant, has seen an influx of visitors.