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Germany’s First “Solar-Powered City”

Posted February. 11, 2008 03:08,   


Marburg in Hessen has become the first city in Germany to require all new buildings to install a solar energy heating system.

House owners in Marburg, with a total population of 78,000, must install a solar energy facility when they build new houses or renovate existing ones. The cost of installation begins at 5,000 euros (6.9 million won) at the minimum and the facility must be replaced once every 10 to 15 years.

Anyone who fails to fulfill the city’s new requirement has to pay a penalty of 15,000 euros (20.9 million won). House builders have the obligation to report their installation to relevant authorities after it is complete.

Currently, Marburg’s municipal assembly and government are dominated by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party, whose combined number of seats accounts for 30 out of 59. The latest legislation came as a strong reflection of the Green Party’s emphasis on protecting the environment.

House builders are required to put in place a solar energy facility not only when they expand existing buildings or replace roofs but also when they replace old heating systems. Since the requirement applies to a broad range of construction activities, it would only be a matter of time before all Marburg’s buildings are equipped with solar energy facilities.

The solar energy facility here would mean a system which can heat the building and provide hot water. This requires a solar energy panel at least one square meter wide per every 20 square meters of the building. Residential house needs a solar panel at least four square meters wide.

The new legislation applies to the entire city including the old district, where the medieval city landscape is preserved. Buildings protected as cultural assets are also not an exception to the new requirement. The city’s argument is that when builders successfully integrate solar panels in rooftops made of newly created materials, the appearance of the cultural asset will not be damaged.

In cases where it is impossible to install solar panels because of possible casting of shadows by the surrounding environment, the buildings in question must heat themselves with non-fossil fuels. By getting rid of any possibility of finding loopholes in the new legislation, the city has virtually blocked the traditional heating system run on fossil fuels.

While introducing Marburg’s case, the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung forecasted that more German states (Land) and cities (Stadt) will mandate the introduction of solar-powered heating system in the future.

BadenWürttemberg, a German Land, will also impose new environmental protection obligation to its citizens in two months’ time. Beginning April, all new buildings must rely 20 percent of its heating on solar energy. The owners of existing buildings will also be subject to the same obligation beginning 2010.

The federal government is also pushing for a similar legislation of its own. Unlike BadenWürttemberg however, the obligation is expected to apply only to new buildings. As for the existing buildings, it will be up to the owners whether to install solar energy facilities in their buildings or not. Nonetheless, the government plans to pay subsidies to install solar panels for those who use solar energy voluntarily.