German Farmers Turn to Energy Crops



Bavarian Farmer Heiner Gärtner hit TreeHugger last summer. With solar panels and pigs, this savvy entrepreneur has transformed his Bavarian farm into a million dollar power station. Employing 10,000 panels over seven hectares of land, he has one of the largest thin-film solar parks in the world. Plus, with a biogas plant fed with corn and pig manure, Gärtner expects 2.7 to 2.8 million kW hours of electricity, double that of the solar park. Now, a recent Deutsche Welle article and podcast reports Gärtner is part of an emerging trend amongst German Farmers, in part due to the decline of profits earned with traditional farming. The general realization: There's money in green energy.Thanks to a guaranteed price under the German renewable energy law, Gärtner will earn 16 cents per Watt-hour. Drawbacks: To create the farm, Gärtner had to raise some serious funds (5.5 million euro)—and ironically, battle some strict environmental zoning laws due to the size of the field.

"It wasn’t such a big change," he says, comparing the energy harvesting to traditional farming. “Now, we just have found a new way of refining the sun’s energy, in that sense, it isn’t so different from agriculture." ::Deutsche Welle