Image: Albert von Thurn und Taxis, gallery
Royalty Racing to Solar
Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis ranked 19th in a spread of 23 racing in the 2009 FIA GT3 European Drivers Championship. Burning fuel and the family fortune in a 535 horsepower Lamborghini Gallardo is not the environmental credentials you might expect for an alternative energy entrepreneur. But the Forbes-ranked "youngest billionaire in the world" wants to place number one in photovoltaic solar energy.
The prince proposes to install solar panels with 65 MW peak capacity on family lands in Bavaria. But there is a catch: he might not get permission to do with his land as he wishes. This time, Prince Albert is racing to reap the rewards of subsidies that may soon end. Can he beat the opposition and avoid delay?Infrastructure History
The House of Thurn and Taxis is no newcomer to public infrastructure: the family started a postal service in the 16th century, which helped earn a princely title from Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in 1695. Mail deliveries overseen by the family continued through the 18th century. The name derives from the family crests with Italian roots dated as far back as the 12th century. "Thurn" comes from the Italian word for tower and "Taxis" from the badger.
How Do You Say NIMBY in German?
The city council of Straubing, which would pocket approximately €1 million (US$ 1.4 million) per year of taxes from the €18 million per year of solar electricity harvested by the Thurn und Taxis solar park, has already voted to approve the proposed installation. But on another border of the 1.9 million square meter (20.5 million square feet) of farmland, the prince has met resistance. FT Deutschland (German) reports that mayor of Feldkirchen, Barbara Unger, fears the 3 kilometer (1.9 mile) wide span of solar cells will turn the rolling countryside into a "gleaming glass desert." Insisting she has nothing against solar power, per se, Unger argues that the magnitude of this park would destroy the beauty and utility of the land. She may have the legendary German land planning authorities on her side: in the official book, the land is prioritized for clay extraction. If that ploy fails, Unger will try to force a referendum, following a precedent which has successfully shut down solar plans on other titled lands in Germany.
Moving fast is in Prince Albert's interest in solar energy as well as in the European Drivers Championship. Trend watchers predict that subsidies for solar investments will be reduced in 2011. So the Thurn und Taxis' solar park needs to be breaking megawatt records by the end of this decade to reap the full reward.
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