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A Tale of Gravel and Birds

A Tale of Gravel and Birds

Power supply from the sun, blocked by gravel from the earth

When we built our high-tech building in Hamburg-Bergedorf in 2014, we wanted to supply it with as much renewable energy as possible. That’s why we wanted to utilise every possible area of our roof for solar panels, just as we did with the storage building next to our main building. However, we are currently unable to install these extra solar panels on our roof due to a bureaucratic situation that forces us to put the gravel on our roof that Fabian Ferrara and Dr. Jürgen Kuballa (r.) (pictured) are holding in their hands.

A rare bird and a zoning plan

Almost a decade ago, two roosting pairs of the endangered “Little Ringed Plover” bird species were spotted in the area that is now called the “Energy Campus Technology Centre”. Our laboratory building is currently located on the same site. A special zone development plan is created for the area in which the bird nests to ensure that the bird can continue to nest in this area even after any construction work has been completed. This plan requires the provision of alternative habitats for the bird. As the bird usually nests on gravel biomes next to rivers, a gravel site must be designated somewhere in the zone.

A bed of gravel, rejected

As there was no suitable location for a gravel area on the ground in the zone at the time, the roofs of the Energy Campus Technology Centre buildings were used instead. This is why the roof of our laboratory building is filled with gravel. According to the regulations, no solar panels can be built where the gravel is placed. We believe that the ecological protection of endangered bird species is of paramount importance: if the gravel was utilised by the bird species, we would be incredibly proud to provide the endangered bird with a habitat to nest in. Unfortunately, the offer was not taken up by the bird species, as it has never been seen in the area again since the first sighting of the two breeding pairs ten years ago.

Openness for discussions and agreements

The zoning plan however, remains in place, meaning that the roofs of the area can’t completely be used for solar panels. It is a disappointing situation for us, especially at a time when renewable energy sources are of incredible importance, to have a ten year old zoning plan that has not produced any results during its existence preventing the introduction of solar panels. We are committed to sustainability as well as reducing our carbon footprint and not being able to use our roof space for solar panels goes against our environmental values.

The issue was raised in the Bergedorf Urban Development Committee, where exemption applications were discussed. We want to ensure that the continuous expansion of renewable energies is driven forward in compliance with government regulations.

We are open to discussions with the relevant authorities, including the Hamburg Ministry for the Environment, Climate, Energy and Agriculture (BUKEA). We hope that we come to an agreement that combines renewable energies and the safeguarding of endangered species.

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