Project Overview

This project will work with professionals employed in business and/ or training, responsible for designing or delivering training, professional development or career guidance. The participants will come from the Third Sector (charitable, non-profit making organisations), from the VET (vocational education and training) sector, governmental bodies, private training providers & SMEs. Participants are involved to design, plan, deliver training focusing on renewable energy technologies ranging from training in Solar PV, Solar Hot Water, Domestic Wind Generation, raising awareness on using sustainable construction methods and materials as well as delivering CO2/ Climate Change awareness training. With this Best Practice exchange we would like to give the opportunity to experience first hand how Germany has dealt with the integration of renewable energy technologies as part of their energy mix and what this meant for the development of training programmes as well as from an investment point of view. There are many lessons that can be learnt and mistakes avoided experiencing a country that has fostered renewables strategically since 1990s. The UK has made a lot of progress in the last couple of years and we wish to foster a cross-country dialogue amongst professionals in the sector to work together on local, national and international level.

What needs are addressed:

There is a EU-wide target to source 20% of the energy needs from renewable sources and to cut CO2 by 26% by 2020. The European Commission has proposed that the UK’s contribution to this should be to increase the share of renewables in their energy mix from around 1.5% in 2006 to 15% by 2020. Currently there is evidence of skills gaps across the energy sector and around 72% of companies in the energy sector experience these skill gaps, notably in project management, technical and practical skills. The Sector Skills Council for Building Services Engineering highlights the pressing challenge of a "bottleneck in training the trainers, a limited number of enforceable standards or Codes of Practice for the installation of Renewable Energy (RE) systems, no specific system design course for RE systems, limited funding for establishing training schemes." These challenges will prevail in 2010 and beyond, as reports on relevant Sector Skills Agreements indicate.           

1) Improve and update the competencies of professionals through the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with specialists in Germany.

2) Observe, shadow and experience vocational training systems and methodologies in practice

3) Collaborate with peers to foster the exchange of knowledge and technologies within the renewable energy/ sustainable construction sector
4) Learn about Best Practice solutions in renewable energies/ sustainable construction (i.e. Zero Carbon houses etc.)

Sunday 21st of April 2013

Chris Rowland - OVESCO & Tom Broughton - Transition Town Chichester

We chose not to fly to Germany and took the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels where we picked up a couple of beers and then boarded the ICE to Frankfurt. ECO Passenger comparison web site shows a one way trip flying is 99.9 Kg of CO2, but the train is only 20.7 Kg of CO2. It also shows how much Nitrogen Oxide is produced by aircraft and cars when compared with train travel.

Lee Rose - Norfolk Solar

Just a short hop from the heathrow hotel to the airport terminal; meeting some of the other participants for the first time. got on the right plane so thats a good start (though i hate flying.......found out later that i could have taken the train to germany!) flight was very quick, followed by an hour waiting at frankfurt airport for the plane from manchester carrying the rest of the participants. then a long drive to zella mehlis (did i spell that right?); the further away from frankfurt, the more solar panels i see. 6.30pm and we arrived at BCS (the venue); quick freshen up and then dinner (with such a lot of bread!) participants seem like a great bunch; learnt about banana beer and solar lamps for Africa today. looking forward to tomorrow.

John Shaw - Burnley College

David and I had a good flight out from Manchester and arrived early in Frankfurt, met Dirk and Sebastian who drove us the two hours to Zella-Meplis here in Thuringia, formerly East Germany Brilliant on the Autobahn as the speed you want to go is the correct one and its legal! Drove through the old border between East and West, and saw the old Border Tower... Now just a relic... Arrived at our accommodation and we were assigned rooms on the 4th floor, Met our colleagues for the week over a evening buffet dinner and discussed the itinerary and the week ahead. 

Monday 22nd of April 2013

Chris Rowland - OVESCO & Tom Bourghton - Transition Town Chichester

Community owned PV array at Viernau. We meet the group on at Frankfurt airport and drove to Zella-Menhis, which is in the East of Germany and were are staying at the BCS college. Today we visted Viernau an an inspiring village of 2000 inhabitants, 10 km from Zella-Menhis, which has really adopted renewable energy generation. As well as re-instating a water mill to generate electricity, and making use of the local wood fuel supply, they have 3 MW of PV in two solar farms and on their buildings.

The largest solar farm is 1.6MW, which is privately owned, there is a further 400kW on local buildings and the second solar farm is a 1MW community owned system, which was funded by a community share issue. This raised 400,000 euros (65 members, each with one vote and 6% ROI after the second year) and 1 million euros from local bank finance (2.95% interest). The project pays the village council 2000 euros for land rent each year and an income from local tax, which is expected to raise 150,000 euros over twenty years.

It was estimated that the current PV systems will generate 3500 MWh per year. The current consumption of the village is 8000 MWh (housing + industry), and the intention is to meet all this demand from renewables – with the dynamic mayor behind this target we am sure that they are going to achieve this.

So could Transition Lewes and Chichester achieve the same and generate all the power they need from renewables?

Chris asked what the mayor thought about the proposed 15MW PV array planning proposal for Upper Stoneham Farm between Ringmer and Lewes. The mayor suggested that the community could offer to finance the project with part bank and part community share issue. For more information on the planning application for Upper Stoneham Farm visit the South Downs National Park planning application page and attend one of two public consultation events. The events will take place Monday 29th April 2013 at Lewes Town Hall between 3 and 8 pm and Wednesday 8th May 2013 at Ringmer Village Hall also between 3 and 8 pm.

Lee Rose - Norfolk Solar

BCS has a good selection of solar pv and CHP; i was particularly intrigued by the 6kwp array and trying to work out why the modules had discoloured. The afternoon brought a short drive to Viernau's solar parks, and a closer look at the 990kwp community owned PV array, complete with a celebrity guide - Viernau's mayor no less! what a nice bloke he was. then.......for me...... the highlight of the day; a presentation from Herr Gerlach on domestic solar thermal systems followed by a golden opportunity to fire off some technical doesn't get any better! 

Jake Rendle-Worthington - Solar Aid

After a prompt start we headed up to BCS and were given an introduction on what this vocational training organisation did and the phenomenal facilities that they offer by Mr. Gerlach the Director. There are five main areas of expertise that they focus on; home economics, administration, plastics and moulding, metal work and electronics. We then were given a quick tour of the two PV systems installed at another building for this facility by Mr. Roth. The later PV system, a 30kWp system, due to cunning procurement and optimisation of feed in tarrifs having a payback of just over 5 years. 

 The older system showed visible signs of degradation, but was still generating decent amounts of energy. After a lunch prepared by the home economics department of BCS and consisting mainly of the German staple of reconstituted meat product we took a trip to the Solarpark at Viernau. This is a town that due to the energy and enthusiasm for renewable of the Mayor produces almost 50% of its electricy requirements from renewable technologies, mostly Solar. While this was inspiring it was hard to see how this could be replicated in the UK with the mechanisms of local government and trust of financial institutions for bankable renewable projects relative to the German model. 

We then returned to Zella Mehliss we went back to BCS and Mr. Gerlach was good enough to give us a presentation on his most cost saving and efficient system of heating domestic hot water and home heating. This consisted of a maximal installation of Solar Thermal collectors coupled with a very large storage tank and supplemented by another heat source – such as gas boiler, wood chip or other. For me the most revolutionary part of the system was that the solar thermal collectors supplied hot water to a heat exchanger that was exterior to the storage tank and then water was taken for different applications, i.e. tap water; underfloor heating, from different sections of the tank to match the temperature requirement of those applications. All in all an inspiring day, but the pinnacle had to be the beer and car boot party in the car park! 

Andrea Berardi - Funky Renewables

 First day in Zella-Mehlis: After a comprehensive introduction to the BCS we had the opportunity to visit the Viernau solarpark. This town of about 2000 residents can rely on a photovoltaic infrastructure of more than 3000 kW photovoltaic, awesome! It seems that more than 43% of the electricity is produced from renewable sources. Furthermore, although if methane is available, people tend to take advantage from the wood from the forest for heat their houses.

In the afternoon we also had the pleasure of having a "private lesson" from the CEO of BCS who outlined the company approach regarding the integration of different technologies. From their analysis it would be possible to cost-effectively cut off the running costs of the 40%÷50% in many residential buildings, with a proper integration of thermal insulation, solar thermal and efficient heating systems like heat pumps or biomass boilers. 

John Shaw - Burnley College

Following breakfast, we had a welcome meeting from Herr Gerlach at the BCS centre. He speaks excellent Russian but no English , a legacy of East German education... he explained the number of professional staff the centre employs, the 27 courses offered...including Electrical, Engineering, Plastic moulding and Catering. Exams can also be taken accredited to the Chamber of Crafts and Commerce. We then had a tour of the facility, including the two Solar voltaic arrays installed...1 in 2008 and the new array in 2011 ... The newer system is visibly in better condition, as the older one ( by only three years) has discoloured panels, also generates more energy and therefore saves more carbon! Both electronic displays are in the centres main teaching room for all trainees to see.

After a hot lunch at the centre we were taken to Viernau were a solar photo voltain farm with 4200 panels can generate up to 3MW ...about 35 % of the villages energy requirement. We meet one of the Directors who showed the farm to the group and explained the farms configuration...and the slight issue of soil erosion under the this is affecting the houses located below the farm... A solution is to grass seed the land and employ sheep to manage the grass... Simple and effective!! We returned to the village to meet the Burgermeister, (Town Mayor) Herr Hellmann, who gave a talk on the changing ways of village life... 

Dirk kindly interpreting for those of us with limited German (very limited). Following 1945, a large metal processing factory which employed 600 people was shut down and the town now has many SME's contributing to employment...from my observations there are many new and very smart houses... Mainly detached Chalet type with their own gardens... A few are in need of repair...some need much repair... Although this is to be expected in a working village of 2000 inhabitants . The Solar farm cost 1.4 million Euros to set up... 0.4 raised by a group of villagers and the remaining million Euros borrowed from the bank...interest rates of 2.39% ensure a pay back time of 5-6 years... A very good investment.

We returned to the centre for a presentation from Herr Gerlach on the best (and worst) ways to exploit renewables to ensure maximum energy efficiency and financial benefit from Dirk once again proved to be an excellent interpreter for our the technical details were involved and our group questioned the Director closely on the finer points of heating systems and their relevant operating pressures and valves. The first day closed at 5.30 and we returned to our accommodation for our evening meal... Meat balls in soup... And to start our blogs. 

Lui Hepworth - Brighton Energy Cooperative

It was great to see a 1MW community solar farm just outside the town and to hear about it's popularity with the local residents. I like the fact that all shareholders only have one vote, regardless of how much they have invested. There is also a maximum that any one person can invest. This stops any one investor dominating the project, making voting more democratic. It was fantastic to be able to quiz the Town Mayor and hear how passionate he is about renewables. With two solar farms and individual small scale renewables, the town now generates 3.5 million Kw/hrs per year. All this has been installed over the last ten years. The town's total consumption is 8 million Kw/hrs per year and the Mayor is confident that the rest of this demand will be met with small scale renewable installations eg roof top solar PV.

David Aspin - Burnley College

Visit the BCS Vocational Training Centre. The facility has twenty seven professionals and specializes in five areas: Home Economics, Business Adminstration, Metal Engineering, Plastic Engineering and Electrical Engineering. There are sixty staff at the centre providing training for between 200 – 300 students per year. The facility is almost self sufficient with the majority of services delivered utilizing in-house resources. The facility comprises of three building which includes the Guest House accommodation. We had the opportunity to observe the two PV panel installations located on the roof of the facility. These were installed in 2008 & 2011 respectively. The 2008 installation generates 9KW and the 2011 installation generates just short of 30KW: Whilst at the facility we were shown an example of a working CHP unit and the principles of the installation were explained. We were also given the opportunity to visit the manufacturing facility.

After lunch we drove over to the Solar park at Viernau where we met the director of the plant. He explained some key facts and figures such as the total area of the 4100 PV panels (18000 SqM) which were connected to 20 KM of installed wiring. The installation was undertaken by Siemens. The outputs are: 900 – 1050 W/m2, 8000 KWH/ day, 8MW hours / day. The installation was commissioned in Feb 13. The installation is monitored regularly to identify problems at an early stage. The Mayor explained the funding for the site which was provided through a community venture with a loan facility from the bank for a proportion of the project cost. The interest rate agreed with the bank was 2.39% The Mayor also explained that no further land based solar parks would be allowed in the area. The last session of the day was a presentation by H: Gerlach this covered solar thermal and heat pumps (air & ground)

Tuesday 23rd of April 2013

Chris Rowland - OVESCO & Tom Bourghton - Transition Town Chichester

Warm Jumpers and the BTZ Aus- und Weiterbildung Technical College. Today we visited the
BTZ Technical College, where students young and old can study engineering, building construction and renewable energy technologies. The whole site is very impressive and courses take students through the entire design and build process. We saw CAD modelling, a range of CNC machines, laser metal sintering, rapid prototyping, part scanners, energy efficiency for homes and a wide range of renewables. All the renewables were deployed on site or being tested and included:

Solar thermal (see image above) combined with gas CHP, absorption chillers and a heat exchanger, to heat and cool the building. There are plans to link the college with a chicken farm 2km away by a gas pipe and supply the CHP engine with biogas to run the plant. Excess electricity would be sold to the grid.
A twenty year old facade mounted 2 kW PV system still working at 80% of their original performance. So effectively this system is now as a 1.6kw array and was generating 600W on the day of our visit. Other sites/buildings had been fitted with panels for comparison throughout Germany and it would be interesting to see how they had performed.
One room devoted to testing technology which included a CHP gas boiler with Stirling engine, a range of biomass boilers, thermal stores and thermal batteries.
One block devoted to energy efficiency which included full size sections of homes with a wide rage of insulation measures including solid wall insulation, heat exchangers, innovative thermal stores and pellet fed biomass boilers.

Looking across the valley from BTZ to a 3.5 MW PV solar farm it was surprising to see that the roofs of the BTZ were not covered with PV panels. It was explained that BTZ didn’t want to do so, because it would mean that the college would get less funding (FiT rules) and its primary purpose is training students! We have noticed that the energy needs of this area relay on wood fuel, solar thermal, PV (small and large scale) and thermal heat. There are no large wind turbines in that part of Germany, because of its natural wooded beauty.

At BTZ they have a vision based around training, connections with industry and finance with a long term goal to continually improve. Of course technical solutions alone are not enough to supply our future energy needs and behaviour change is also necessary, but you have to admire the way that Germany is so good at the whole process of developing products which work and are of high quality.

So we end on a comment made yesterday; ‘jumpers are a very effective and simple way to keep you warm’.


Lee Rose - Norfolk Solar

Just yesterday i wrote 'life doesn't get any better'...... how wrong i was. For a technical nerd like me, today's trip to BTZ Rohr was like opening all the best presents from all of my childhood christmas' at once! This is a vocational college doing amazing stuff with metal and plastic engineering, and then, i counted a minimum of ten renewable energy or low carbon technology installations, of which some are simply excellent examples of best practice, at least two are pioneering works dating back some 20 years, and at least two more are at the cutting edge of thermal renewables. The phase change equipment is so new that they haven't finished installing it yet! and i have never seen not just one, but two working examples of ammonia absorption chillers (one of which fed by solar thermal). have i died and gone to heaven?

Jake Rendle-Worthington - Solar Aid

Today we started with a trip to the Chamber of Crafts for Thuringa. Quite an amazing facility with all kinds of resources for tradesmen to up-skill and become Master-craftsmen. They have several large workshops onsite with state of the art equipment for welders, mechanics, metal engineers and plastics engineering, carpentry and joinery amongst many other skills. They even had a converted monastery equipped with two bowling alleys!

The most interesting part came after lunch as we were shown around the newly opened energy in buildings facility. It was served by a 130m¬¬¬¬¬2 array of flat plate solar thermal collectors which fed into a 3,000 litre storage tank for heating. There was also a refrigeration unit attached so the heat energy from the solar thermal could also be used for cooling. As well as serving the practical and classroom areas of this building this system also connected to a loop in the ceiling of a lecture hall so that on balmy summer days cooled air could drift down into this hall making lectures more bearable!

The practical area of this facility was also phenomenal with several styles of German buildings from different eras semi constructed in a large hall. This was so that students can see all the different methods used for retrofitting energy saving and energy efficiency measures. Each building also has several mistakes in built into them and an interactive monitor to help you identify these mistakes. An excellent tool for best practice for builders and tradesmen, the kind of thing that would blow the mind of any British builder! We also looked at the utility room of the whole place which had several different types of heating system installed, pellet boilers, wood boilers, a gas CHP plant with hot water storage tanks. They also had ready to install a number of tanks for hot water storage using salt in water as a method of phase change heat store.

These were to be tested here as well at a number of other establishments to find out their potential for the manufacturer. We made a visit to the ancient village of Rohr with its Church and crypt on the way home at which we were given a great insight into the history of the village by an old lady who ran the museum. It seems for at least 1000 years everyone had picked on the inhabitants of Rohr. There was the travelling Kings who ate all their food, local knights who stole their harvests, Bavarian Barons who stole their baby King, Saxon administrators who got them into massive debt, the neighbouring village who lent them money and stole their village and the Croats who put their priest in an oven. The Swedes where at least quite nice and came back after the 30 year war to marry some of the locals. All in all an interesting and exhausting day, no more car park party for me tonight! 

Andrea Berardi - Funky Renewables

Today we had the opportunity to visit the local buildings of the Chamber of Crafts and adjacent areas, dedicated to the training of students. It is the first time I see a training center where Selective Laser Sintering is used. It is an additive manufacturing layer technology that uses laser in order to fuse together particles of plastic or metal powders, creating the desired three-dimensional shape. The results are impressive.

The center also has an advanced division, dedicated to renewable energy and energy savings. The building can be considered an exhibition in itself, as it uses the most different techniques you energy production and distribution, including an absorption refrigerator powered by solar collectors.

Lui Hepworth - Brighton Energy Cooperative

Highlight of today was to see innovative ways of storing heat. Excellent for storing excess heat produced from solar thermal in the summer to use used into the winter months. I loved the big rubber storage tank that be easily squashed down to get it into the basement of existing homes, where the system is then assembled. This system cleverly stores and uses heat in different temperature layers and can provide enough heating and hot water to get through the whole winter.

It was also good to see the wall mounted solar panels, still working at 80% of their original capacity after 20 years of use. Those are panels made 20 years ago. Since then PV technology has moved on greatly, with panels now generating more and loosing less efficiency over their long life span. They are only going to get better and better over time. Good stuff. 

John Shaw - Burnley College

Dirk shared breakfast with the group and then accompanied us on a short drive to BTZ Rohr... Today we went to the BTZ training centre in Rohr... A really modern facility for training in the areas of Building crafts, Engineering, plastic moulding and Rapid prototype equipment. The centre has training courses funded by companies and the chamber of crafts and chamber of commerce...and BTZ provides the practical element of the Apprentice training. The Chamber of crafts provides opportunities in 42 disciplines. Master craftsmen also train here ... This is similar to a degree level education and you must have Master craft status before you can secure funding to start a business. Or have been in a leading position in a company for at least 6 years! Being a Master craftsman opens up more opportunities and some people have gained 2 aster craft status areas... Including the Carpentry teacher...who is also a Master bricklayer...

Master crafts courses are self-funded through State owned student loans or a local bank or company. School links provision is a carousel type course where the school youngsters attend one day pre week and have a taster to sample the craft areas prior to choosing the one they would like to study.. There are specific courses manufacturers can choose for their own product design...including up to three days design and make rapid prototype and testing welding equipment at the centre. Michael Bickel then gave the group a tour...starting at Carpentry on top of the hill and working our way back down via, engineering, electrical and rapid prototype and welding workshops...

We had lunch in the sunshine before visiting a brand new facility dedicated to low energy and low carbon building...including a brilliant fault finding centre with six differing full size models of construction types in Thuringia...that has two hundred deliberate faults installed that the students have to locate within two hours ... I found five in the hour I was there ...but then again I wasn't really looking!!! The centre is open to the students and once a month to companies and members of the local populace... Who can come to view the house types before deciding to renovate a property or pursue a business idea... What abreast idea that is!!!

This new centre is something i would definitely like to replicate back in Burnley college... What a fantastic way of showing people what building do and what they can do to use less energy an still be comfortable to live in...

We stayed over an hour longer than we should and so we were late for our visit to the crypt in Rohr Closter ...Germany's oldest crypt at 811AD

We had a very interesting talk from the lady there who explained in detail all about the traveller kings and Otto the third.... Married at 17 and died at 27... But left one of five children to survive as his heir at the tender age of 3.5 years old!! The church is surrounded by a walled area to protect it form centuries of pillaging and raiding by Croats , travellers and even the local monks and nuns did their share of extortion form the locals is a beautiful place for a photo or three!! 

David Aspin - Burnley College

The crypt was freezing and I was glad to take some photos and get back up to the sun outside... Following a short talk in the visitor centre we returned to the BCS Gastehaus and a dinner with the team

This morning we visited BTZ Rohr Aus- Weiterbuildung. This is the most modern Vocational / Renewable energy centre in Germany. The centre caters for students who wish to learn a certain craft such as Engineering and provides a level of study to enable the student to progress to become a Master Craftsman.

As part of the visit we had a tour of the facility which included visiting the wood machine area with a demonstration of the CNC machine. The tour progressed to the welding workshop and testing area and finally concluded with a detailed discussion of injection moulding CNC engineering using both plastics and metal. The session included a brief overview of the manufacturing process including the drawing of the component using CAD Inventor.

The afternoon session included a visit to the recently opened Renewable Energy Centre which includes several construction models identifying various build forms and techniques. The models have been carefully constructed utilizing the actual materials and construction methods which have been copied from the different types of construction that have been adopted throughout the years from traditional construction to ultra modern construction methods.

Actual building defects / faults have been purposely built into the models to provide a training exercise for students to identify the faults or areas of bad practice.

The facility also includes the latest energy saving equipment which is all on display.

The final session of the day was a visit to the Rohr-Closter. This is Germanys oldest crypt dating from 811 AD. The visit included a talk which covered the history of the area and the building. The group visited the actual crypt before ending the session in the Museum.

Wednesday 24th of April 2013

Tom Broughton - Transition Town Chichester

My illusions of a country that strictly did things by the book were dented somewhat today when I learnt that the requirement for an Energy Pass, equivalent to the UK’s EPC, when selling or letting a property was not strictly adhered to. The cost of an Energy Pass, €50-100, didn’t seem that different to the UK, as long as the property owner had 3 quarters of energy bills, otherwise the price could double. Even the potential fine of €50,000 didn’t seem to encourage stronger adherence. As highlighted by Energy Assessor Dipl. Physiker Reiner Maschke, the number of energy assessments was much less than the number of sales/lets. Herr Maschke hoped than a central register for the Energy Passes which should have been live in 2012 would be ready in 2015! Surprisingly, this does seem to be something that the UK has done better than Germany as there has been a central database, administered by a Quango, Landmark, since the start of EPCs.

At the Pumped Storage system at Goldisthal, we learnt that the system could generate 1GW of electrical power in 90 seconds! And could change from pumping to generating in 2 minutes. It could even pump and generate at the same time – this latter scenario was motivated by contracts on the electricity market that could actually have electricity generators selling electricity at negative prices, due to imbalances created by the country’s significant renewable energy sources of 7GW Wind and 18GW PV. It was wondered whether a PV system could be used to also pump the water and have a truly integrated system on site. However, it was noted that a 1GW PV system would occupy the same entire area as the model.

Chris Rowland - OVESCO

Retrofitting of homes in Germany is funded by KWF bank at a 1% interest rate. There is also a grant of for up to 10% of the cost, which can be taken as an alternative. This is more attractive that the Green Deal in the UK, which has an interest rate of about 7%. You wonder why one of our state owned banks in the UK cannot offer a lower interest rate, when Germany offers such an attractive deal? Home energy assessments are similar to those in the UK but use a sliding scale instead of steps to indicate a buildings performance.
When we visited the back pumping station at Goldistha and the high speed rail link from Hamburg to Nurnberg, I was struck by the long term planning required to make these projects happen and scale of these projects. Both projects are located in the Thuringian Forest, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. I had a mixture of emotions about the high speed rail link standing in front of the bridges and tunnels cutting through the forest (see photo). On the one had I saw a fantastic construction project, which promoted the use of train travel, on the other hand you cannot ignore the fact that this is a huge scar in the landscape. Perhaps it will be easier to except once the project is completed in 2017 and all the landscaping is in place. Dirk explained that the link will be primary used for freight transport and aims to take lorries off the autobahn reducing and this will carbon emissions.

It seemed easier to justify the back pumping station, because most of the hardware is hidden in the turbine hall about 1KM under the mountain (see photo). This project almost was almost small in comparison to the rail link and it also helps to balance the grid in Germany, which is important with so much for PV and wind generation now on line. This is basically a huge battery you can switch on an off any time you like. If you want renewable energy at scale you need storage and a way to manage that storage.

So where does that leave us? Small is beautiful, but can big be beautiful or have we just lost the ability to think on a human scale when it comes to national decisions about infra structure? Germany has it all from home retrofits and solar systems houses to huge filed scale PV, back pumping stations and high speed rail networks. They are working at every level in this country to simply keep up with our changing world and they are deploying all of this at scale right now.
25 April 2013: Community smart grids, CHP, solar and electric cars, could this be the future for Transition Towns and are we already on this path

Lee Rose - Norfolk Solar

Mr Maschke (an energy assessor) gave a presentation about performance of buildings; he clearly knows a lot about his subject but i personally found this session less useful than the others so far. Then it was off to Goldisthal pump station, a water driven electric turbine complex above the forest. Aside from stunning scenery, the tour of the complex was great. The guide was really helpful and knowledgeable, and we got up close to some impressive equipment, all buried deep in a felt like the lair of a james bond villian. Just around the corner, we got a tour of the new section of Deutsche Bahn network from Berlin to Munich; again impressive feats of engineering.......huge bridges and long tunnels. i look forward to travelling on the finished article in 2017!

Jake Rendle-Worthington - Solar Aid
This morning we started with a presentation from an energy assessor or auditor. He ran through the German system of energy performance certificates for building, what they consist of and how to perform them as an overview. He highlighted the main areas to look at for energy loss in homes and thus where improvements can be made in efficiency. He also showed where the main areas of energy usage are, mainly heating. Once efficiency and energy use measures have been exhausted he thought that the next push would be for home energy storage.

We were then taken to a massive pumped storage facility owned by Vattenfall. This consisted of a man-made lake in hills that was at about 800m above sea level feeding turbines about 300-400 metres lower that flushed out into a basin that had once been a valley, but now was damned. The Turbine hall was deep underground and contained 4 x 265MW turbines, giving a total capacity of 1.06 GW! Each turbine was reversible, thus turning it into a pump to push water from the lower reservoir up to the top. This could be done at times when there was excess generating capacity on the grid causing negative electricity prices.

There are even occurrences when two turbines could be pumping and two turbines could be generating because of house the electricity market is distorted. Most impressive was the size of the actual turbines, over 4m in diameter. When fitted in place they are surrounded by a coiled penstock in which are a number of fins that can regulate the pressure of the water as the total fall decreases due to the water level in the top reservoir falling.

After this tour we were given a talk and tour of the new high speed train line be constructed between Nuremburg and Berlin. In order for this line to allow freight trains to maintain speeds of over 200kmh the angle of slope could not be more than 12m in 1000m, and as the route goes through the mountains of Thuringa 28 arch bridges and 40km of tunnels had to be built. There were numerous other challenges faced by this new high speed line, but works, as we saw are progressing rapidly and it is expected to open on time in 2017 and on budget at 10 Billion Euro. After a highly interesting day of information overload we came back to the Guest House at the BCS for a BBQ and a Volley ball tournament. Not quite managing to hold the British end up in the latter.

John Shaw - Burnley College

After breakfast ... We walked up the hill to BCS headquarters and had a presentation from Herr independent e energy assessor, he gave an overview of the Domestic Energy Assessor process here in Germany. In Thuringia, on average 87% of energy used in the home is for space heating...and for a typical house with no insulation measures ...this equates to 220 parts of 275 parts for the whole house needs…

The biggest factors to heat loss and energy used being
  1. External envelope/shell ...a factor being East Germany's change from wood and coal since the reunification of 1990/91 and the change to oil and gas...most internal heating systems are 22 years old!! 
  2. Energy demands are increasing and it's difficult to predict as climate changes are uncertain when factoring into energy requirements 
  3. Quality of current building insulation standards 
  4. Perversely ...people who live in poorly insulated homes tend to use less they are aware of the building's performance and so tend to wear more clothes in winter!!!

Herr Maschke went on to describe more factors and then presented a live as element on the utilising where we are staying...the Gastehaus at BCS including the typical assume not of a German one of 172 m2. The BCS building could be significantly improved from 131 KWH per metre 2 per year to 106 KWH per year per metre 2...with a five year payback (this is based on a 1% bank loan as the measure sod not cost over 75,000 Euros to fund). We took our pack lunches and drove to the Goldistahl pump storage facility about an hours car journey away...

This was an impressive and modern Hydro-electricity generation storage facility...similar to Dinorwig in Wales UK. A top lake discharges water to run turbines and disperse into a bottom to generate above a giga watt of electricity when needed...and purchase electricity back from the state Grid to pump water back up to the top lake. The actual economics of this are complex...Germany's energy prices are set on exchanges...the nearest one at Leipzig, and it is not uncommon, especially in sunshine, when PV is at its optimum, that the facility is both making energy for the grid and buying it back to pump water uphill simultaneously !! Very complex indeed!!

The visit started in the visitors centre and we then went underground via bus...a system of tunnels and steps took us to view the main turbine hall and gallery, Thomas Schubert, a member of the facilities team, explained the actual process of moving water from the top lake....which "drops" 25 metered over 8 hours continuos running...via four pipes which start at 6metre diameter and reduce to 2.5 metres at turbine point...a pressure of 32 bar!!! Several working models explain the process and I took many pictures for the team back in Burnley...sharing my experience will be important for the College.

Following another mini-bus ride to the surface, We left Thomas and drove to our next visit ...the new planned High Speed rail link from Munich to Berlin. Due to Thuringia's mountains and forests... The rail track is a series of tunnels and bridges spanning the valleys and hills... For an Engineer or keen bridge enthusiast like was fantastic and I enjoyed taking many pictures of beautiful curved arch bridges and tunnels.... Our guide was the local engineer who has been a part of this project since conception in the early 1990's.

After his presentation in the Goldistahl visitor centre, we again got in our vehicles for a tour of the construction site, the road being especially built for the project. I took advantage of this by taking as many pictures as possible, trying to apply the camera tips I have learned from Jorin, a Dutch member of our group. I'm looking forward to seeing them on the big screen back in college.

We returned to our base at BCS and following a BBQ, had agame or two of volleyball...I did join in but it is several years (25 or more!) since I've played and it took a while for me to get into the play of things...luckily: Dirk, Louie, Andrea and Jorin didn't seem to we had good fun with beating ...only just...the local kids ...They were very good and to be honest I think they let us win!!

David Aspin - Burnley College

Today we visited the BCS training facility where we attended a presentation by  a Physics Engineer and an Independent Energy Assessor. The presentation explained the principles of the assessment and the elements of the Assessment which are:

  1. Year of construction
  2. External construction
  3. Location of the property
  4. Geographical exposure
  5. Primary and secondary heating system
  6. Domestic hot water system
  7. Number of occupants
  8. Use of property
  9. Existing insulation levels
  10. Heating controls
  11. DHW controls

The presentation also explained the change of legislative requirements imposed by the government throughout the years and the introduction of the Assessment system in 2007. The scale of charges for the assessment was also covered i.e. a domestic property with three energy consumption bills would pay in the region of between 50 – 80 euros, for a domestic property 5 units 300 – 400 and an industrial unit 3000 – 4000 euros It was also explained that owners must provide an EPC when requested or face a fine of up to 50000 euros.
The session concluded with an example of an assessment on a typical 1930´ s property In the afternoon, the group visited a pump storage facility Goldisthal which was completed in 2003 despite interrupted funding. We had the opportunity to visit the underground complex and view the working models in the display room above where the turbines are located. The final session of the afternoon included a visit to the new high speed railway site which is its construction phase. This is located at Goldisthal. We visited several locations where construction of tunnels and bridges were taking place. We also attended a presentation in the visitor centre.

Thursday 25th of April 2013

Chris Rowland - OVESCO

In the morning we visited a commercial solar thermal power station at the Oberhof Sports Gym. Here 50,000 litres of water is heated by a solar thermal fa├žade made up of 100 flat plate collectors vertically mounted into the aluminium frame. This is a cross county ski resort high up in the mountains and we wondered if they made use of reflected sun light off the snow. So perhaps Wave Leisure in Lewes could heat its water for most of the year simply using the sun? Lewes District Council has already invested in PV for the swimming pool, but they still have roof space for solar thermal!

Diagram taken from SINUSSTROM web site
In the afternoon we drove to Zella-Mehlis where we met Mr Rossell the mayor and Mr Schwarz from  Sinusstrom. The local council invested €600,000 and set up an energy services company to build and run a smart grid. So what is a Smart Grid? In the case of Zella-Mehlis (population of 11,600) it 130kWp of PV on the hospital to charging points for four battery powered cars (the public can use the cars for a nominal fee) and a bank of 68kwp lithium iron phosphate batteries. This means the town is starting to manage its own electricity supply. In day light the PV panels can supply the hospital and or the car charging stations. In addition any surplus electrically can be stored in the batteries when it is not consumed and use another time, which could be at night for charging the cars. The mayor plans to invest in more renewable energy such as CHP cogeneration and a new design for a small scale wind turbine.

We asked the mayor a few questions:
  • What is the main aim of the project? Public access to new technology to show the potential for a low carbon future.
  • Did the town get grant funding? No, they chose to use their own money and did not want to be restricted by grant funding rules.
  • Was a large utility company involved? No, they wanted to be independent of the large utilities and want to be in control of their own energy supply.
  • Is the project financially viable at this moment in time? No, the cars and batteries are currently too expensive, but the mayor believes they are paving the way for the future of their town and a time when they can supply much of their own energy needs using an integrated community owned transport system and energy supply.

At this point I have mention that OVESCO now uses Common Wheels, the car share scheme set up by LDC for anyone in Lewes to use. Common Wheels have some electric cars, but not yet in Lewes. So would it be possible to build a Smart Grid in Lewes where electric cars were charged by the community owned PV panels around the town (Harveys Depot, Priory School, Wave Leisure, LFC and LDC’s Council offices) for use by the public? Perhaps this is a debate Transition Town Lewes could start with the Town Council and LDC?

This trip is about technical solutions, but it also raises questions about powering down and sharing within our community. Ask yourself why many families have two cars or more and is that really financially or environmentally sensible? Why not take a big step forward and have one car or a fold up bike and use a car club when you need those extra four wheels, because this is one way we can build a low carbon community for the future. So a look at the Common Wheels web site or find out if you have a local care share scheme and just consider trying it out! Then ask you council if you can have access to a community electric car.


Lee Rose - Norfolk Solar

In the morning the group split up. some went to the motor and weapons museums but i went with a small group to the local ski resort. its only now i've seen a real ski jump do i appreciate the huge courage needed for the sport. We also had a chance to see inside a cross country ski hall, which must be a huge energy consumer to cover the 1.7 kilometre indoor track with snow! around the corner is a very impressive 117m2 solar thermal system preheating a 50,000 litre buffer tank for a sports centre, and the solar collectors were part of the building facade. after lunch we met the mayor of zella mehlis, who gave a presentation about an innovative smart grid system on a complex of public buildings behind the town hall. the scheme included a large pv array, a water cooled inverter achieving amazing efficiency, a clever dc system design with a 68kWh lithium battery store, and a range of electric pool cars, which we were invited to test drive. I drove the mitsubishi i-miev which was very impressive........ it seemed to accelerate up a hill as though the hill wasn't there! The whole scheme promises great things as it evolves and i look forward to an update.

Jake Rendle-Worthington - Solar Aid

Today was something of a more relaxed day. The morning be filled with a trip of our own choice, I choose to go to the Weapons and Motorbike museums in Suhl. Suhl has been at the centre of weapons manufacture for over 500 years making everything from crossbows, to muskets to AK47s and hunting rifles, and the museum has no shortage of examples. The motorbike museum, although not quite so impressive holds some samples of cars and bikes unknown to the west, such as the East German version of BMW – EMW.

After lunch we were given a reception by the Mayor of Zella Mehlis, who had exceptional (American) English. He very proudly introduced us to the Smart Grid and Electric car charging pool developed just for the town. Wolfgang Schwart of Sinusstrom who developed and installed the smart grid gave us a presentation on how it worked. Basically a 130kW PV system connected to a 68kWh battery bank, especially developed DC car charging system and a CHP plant all on the DC side of the system is connected through an inverter to a former 100 bed hospital and the Grid on the AC side. The hospital had changed use, but was still run and owned by the municipality, but only 10% of grid electricity that was used before is used now. The electric vehicles are completely charged by the system and are available for use by doctors and for hire by the general public, there is a fleet of 4. 60% of energy generated by the PV is self used. An amazing system, but at 600,000 Euro not cheap and not financially viable, but someone has to try these things out so that they can be modified to become viable and hopefully one day commonplace.

Andrea Berardi - Funky Renewables

In the afternoon we had the pleasure to visit a local pearl: a very "smart" building almost entirely powered by renewable sources. It is one of the few grid connected sites that makes use of batteries as well, (68kWh storage capacity) and it can therefore also operate in stand-alone mode. The main components are:
  • 07 kWp PV system, roof mounted.
  • CHP unit: 15 kW electric output / 30 kW thermal output, mainly used in winter for heating, it can compensate the decreased generation of the PV array during the rainiest seasons.
  • 5 kW wind farm, helpful to satisfy the base load requirements.
However we can find the most interesting part in the parking lot next to the building, where we can find four electric cars recharged by above-mentioned power generation systems. We tested the electric cars in a small test drive on the streets of the village. The performances are comparable to a common city car and the car performs well even uphill. The total absence of noise, emissions and the awareness of travelling for free give a special touch to the driving experience. Unluckily I do not have much technical data about the cars, but we know that they can travel about 100 ÷ 130 km per charge.

John Shaw - Burnley College

After breakfast, the group split into two with one group vivid ting the mountain park whilst we went to Suhl's museums of Weapons manufacturing and Motorbikes and cars. Dirk again made sure we were looked after and he kindly paid the entry fee to both museums. The weapons museum was fascinating... Suhl has had gun and weapon manufacturing for hundreds of years...even Napoleon recognised the importance of the local craftsmen when he asked them to repair 40,000 of his damaged rifles whilst retreating from Russia in 1812 ...there are many beautiful examples of hunting and military rifles...presented in clean glass cases. The only disappointment was that we could not spend more time there, as we wanted to visit the motorbike museum too. In fact it's worth mentioning that both museums were exceptionally clean and tidy, as were the many visits we've had so far... Germany is a very clean and tidy and proud country...I wish I could say the same for my home town!!!
I was happy to see the museum had motorbikes by Zundapp... As my late uncle had one a 750 cc machine including a side car and hand gear shift mounted onto the petrol tank... fantastic and a happy memory...and we spent many a happy time discussing the merits of German and English engineering.. He would have loved to be here!! We saw Early BMW's, CMZ's and a maker called Simsom... So I had to take pictures for Alex... She would not be happy if I told her and didn't have the picture to show her..

In fact there were many fine examples of simson cars and a funny one from 1955 ...a EMW..!!. Built here in the East and remarkably like a 1933 BMW... I wonder why?? There was also a beauty called a WartBurg... A red open top 2 seater that had all of us mouth watering... What a shame that they are no longer available ... Unless you're a multi millionaire of course!

We returned to BCS for lunch, our afternoon visit to the Rathaus (Town Hall) were Herr Gerlach
welcomed us, asked if we were enjoying our tour and introduced the group to the Burgermeister, Richard Rossel. We were invited into the council meeting room and Herr Rossal, who spoke very good English, proudly introduced the project we had come to see, along with his colleague from SINUSSTROM... Herr Schwartz. The mayor of Zella-Mehlis has developed , along with SINUSSTROM, a localised smart grid system...whose prime function is to introduce the possibilities of further uses of solar energy. In simple terms, a local health centre has been refurbished and has an installation of PV panels...generating energy that is stored in batteries San charges electric cars that the local populace can hire!... It's very innovative and, although not maximising profits, its earning enough to pay back with within 6 years and is a cutting edge way of ensuring "buy-in" form local energy users and suppliers

We visited the battery store, a garage type building, located behind the Rathaus about 100 metres up the hill, and we all surprised to discover that despite their capacity ... They only occupied as much space as a wardrobe!! We then had the opportunity to drive a car and I volunteered to drive a converted small was manual and left hand drive... I haven't drove manuals for about 10 years and so it was no surprise that I crunched the gears ha ha...much to the amusement of my colleagues ...thankfully Dirk was in the car with me to give direction and colleague David was in the back...much to his amusement !

One underway, it was surprisingly nippy and coped with the steep hills and tight corners easily... But I still couldn't understand why not an automatic?? And no power steering!!! Still it was a very good drive and I have started to change my mind about the limitations of electric vehicles .. For town and city driving they will be ideal...

The purpose built Mitsubishi was a better option, being both automatic and power steered... All in all it was a very good visit and we thanked our hosts and returned to BCS

David Aspin - Burnley College

Today we drove to the town of Suhl wher we visited a couple of museums, the Special museum of small arms made in Suhl and the adjacent Automobile museum The Special museum of small arms included numerous displays located over three floors covering the following:
  1. Geology
  2. Workshop
  3. Military fire arms
  4. Porcelain
  5. Hunting guns
  6. Sporting guns
  7. Special exhibition
The workshop facility provides four apprenticeships per year covering the art of a Gunsmith. This is the only facility in Germany which provides this. Indeed there were two apprentices working in the workshop undertaking restoration work at the time of the visit. The second museum that we visited in the morning session was the Automobile Museum which contains splended examples of vintage cars and motorbikes. Famous makes such as BMW, EMW, Triumph and Simson are all displayed.

All of the exhibits have been painstakingly restored and are very well presented. There is also several information boards which present historical information and key facts in relation to some of the more famous examples. In the afternoon the group visited the Town Hall in Zella – Mellis where we met the Mayor, Richard Rossel. The CO of Sinusstron was in attendance and delivered a presentation in relation to a local pilot project smart grid and e-mobility ( LSIM – Lokal Solar Innovation Mobil).

We had the opportunity to visit the plant room to look at the electrical storage facility (Batteries) and the inverter and other installed equipment. There were also examples of two of the electrical powered cars which some members of the group drove. We also took the opportunity to observe the charging facility for the cars. The Mayor confirmed that the initial installation including vehicles was in the region of 600,000 euros.

Tom Broughton - Transition Town Chichester

Oberhof Skisportshalle and Sportgymnasium. Is this like wanting to eat strawberries at Christmas? Cross-country skiing in summer!

After seeing some really impressive carbon saving technologies on our trip to Germany, it was incongruous to discover the Oberhof Skisportshalle. This indoor cross country skiing facility boasts two rotary screw compressors with an output of 620 KW to provide cooling for the entire hall. It wasn’t possible to get the data, but it wouldn’t be surprising that the 1MW solar farm that we visited at Viernau wouldn’t be able to supply the annual energy that this sports hall consumes. 

In the same resort town is the Sportgymnasium with a 117m vertical solar thermal wall that is used to supplement its hot water demand. Today a display showed that by 11am on a warm partially cloudy day it had produced 25kWh of heat, which is about half the daily average of what a typical UK house would use for all its heating needs.