By Jan Ahlen, NFU Climate and Energy Coordinator

Editor’s note:  NFU Climate and Energy Coordinator Jan Ahlen and a group of leaders from across the United States are in Europe from Aug. 21 to Aug. 27 to participate in the Renewables and Rural Energy Opportunities Study Tour organized by Ecologic Institute and the Atlantic Council of the United States. Bill Midcap from Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and Chris Studer of SDFU will also be on the tour.

Our first day on the study tour kicked off by providing an overview of German renewable energy policy. The European Union mandates that by 2020, 20 percent of electricity production should come from renewable sources. While this is an EU-wide target, Germany is required to produce 35 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

The main driver in Germany to attain the 35 percent requirement is the so-called feed in tariff (FiT). Under the FiT, renewable energy systems are guaranteed access to the grid and owners receive long term contracts. This strong support has resulted in massive deployment of renewable energy systems.

Monday, we saw examples of the success of renewable energy in Bavaria. We visited the second largest solar farm in Europe which produces 53 MW of electricity. The system is cooperatively owned by the developer and residents from the local community. While the project takes up a sizable area, the community agreed to the project because of the option to invest in the project.

The issue of community acceptance in a wind farm is major concern in America as well as Europe. Widespread acceptance of renewables is dependent on the financial benefits received from the sale of electricity. When landowners and other community members are invited to buy into a project, projects have a higher chance of succeeding and overcoming any local opposition.

NFU continues to call for increased local ownership of renewable energy systems. Community ownership retains profits in the local community and contributes to rural economic development.

Check back often for updates from the tour.

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