The Costs of Germany's Green Wave

Germany is a world leader in green energy, but it comes at a cost, reports this Der Spiegel article.

Published: 11-Dec-2009

On the outskirts of Gustrow, a town in northeastern Germany, 20 tent-like structures rise from the Mecklenburg plain. From a distance, the scene looks like a circus convention. But if anyone were to enter the circular structures, he would not encounter a joyful menagerie of people, animals and circus sensations, but immediate death by suffocation.

The giant, airtight tanks are filled with corn silage, tons of chopped up stems, grains and leaves, which is fermented at 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 weeks. The process, which yields biogas that contains methane, mirrors what happens in a cow's intestines, says businessman Felix Hess, but with one difference: "We capture the gas."

Hess, 49, picks up a handful of the corn substrate, crumbling it between his fingers. It smells fresh and slightly sour, "which is exactly the way it should be," he says.


Toyota Prius with solar panels on roof that provide 165 watts of power per hour, not enough to propel the car more than a couple miles.

Solar Electric Vehicles sells its version of a plug-in Prius, with a solar panel installed, for $25,000.

Solar Millennium's AnderSol-2 solar thermal project in Egypt.

Retrofitting existing power plants is a low-cost option for solar-thermal projects because the steam turbines that are needed come for free.

Professor David Banister

Travel growth in a car-dependent society must be confronted so that people travel less, not more, writes Oxford Professor of Transportation Studies at Oxford University, David Banister.


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