Our path to even more solar energy is paved

Our path to even more solar energy is paved

A Decade-Long Journey

As we reported in a previous blog post, we have been working for about ten years to install solar cells on our roof to promote sustainable energy. We already generate solar energy from the roof of our outside storage building and would like to increase this capacity to reduce our dependence on electricity from fossil fuels.

However, due to restrictive zoning regulations in the region where we are located, implementing this project has proven challenging. Nearly ten years ago, two breeding pairs of the endangered “Little ringed plover” were spotted on the grounds of the current “Energie-Campus” technology center. As a result, a zoning plan was established that required gravel beds on the roofs of the “Energie-Campus” buildings to provide nesting sites for the birds. Our laboratory also has such a gravel bed on the roof. Unfortunately, in the approximately 10 years since the zoning plan was put in place, no Little ringed plover has been observed on the premises. We would be delighted to host one of these endangered birds, but the bird has not accepted the offer of a nesting site on the “Energie-Campus”.

We would now like to use our roof for other sustainability projects, such as expanding our solar installations. However, the existing zoning plan does not currently allow for photovoltaic panels to be installed on the gravel surface.

Navigating Regulatory Challenges

This situation has persisted for almost 10 years, and during this time, we actively engaged with the relevant authorities to find a solution so that we can contribute to the energy transition. Unfortunately, our efforts did not yield the desired results—until now. Over the course of this year, the situation has been discussed at both administrative and political levels, including in the Bergedorf City Development Committee and various associations such as the Hamburg Industrial Association. The situation has also been covered by journalists, with a report appearing in the “Bergedorfer Zeitung”, the biggest newpaper in the district of Hamburg-Bergedorf.

A Green Light

Finally, our years of effort have paid off. Last week, we received encouraging news from the Bergedorf district office:

After reviewing the situation within the zoning area, the district office and the Hamburg Environmental Authority concluded that the designated replacement habitats on the gravel roofs do not have the necessary effectiveness, and there are sufficient alternative areas for Little ringed plovers in the vicinity. This paves the way for applying for exceptions to construct photovoltaic systems: “The provisions of the zoning plan remain unchanged. However, from now on, every application for photovoltaics on the roofs of the Research and Innovation Park will be positively approved as an exception,” said district spokeswoman Gabriele Günter in response to an enquiry from the “Bergedorfer Zeitung”.

However, there is a condition: The Environmental Authority has stipulated that the gravel roofs, as part of the exemption, must be transformed into green roofs to improve the urban climate and serve as rainwater sponges.

Looking Forward

We are very pleased with the results from the district office and the BUKEA (Ministry for the Environment, Climate, Energy and Agriculture of the city of Hamburg). We can’t wait to begin construction of the solar installation on our roof. These results combine the protection of flora and fauna with the development of environmentally friendly energy generation. We will start the project immediately, evaluate the situation, and engage with the relevant stakeholders on how to create a green roof on our building, paving the way for solar panels on our roof.

We will keep you updated on the GALAB solar cell project on our roof through our website as soon as the project gets underway.

Overall, the result is a great step for sustainability!

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