Bioenergy Villages

By Eva Seipel

The first bioenergy village was Jühnde in 2004. Since then, many have come. Here you can find out what makes a bioenergy village and how it can contribute to climate protection.

The limited availability of non-renewable resources, a lack of community spirit and dependence on imports are currently critical issues. Bioenergy villages deal with all of them and strive for ecologically and socially sustainable solutions.

A bioenergy village uses biomass as renewable energy and generates it where it is consumed. In addition, the systems for generating energy create jobs and the joint project strengthens the cohesion in the village.

The municipality of Jühnde near Göttingen was a pioneer when it came to bioenergy villages. In 2004, 70 percent of the households there were connected to a biogas plant and a biomass heating plant. A key driver of the project was the “Interdisciplinary Center for Sustainable Development” at the University of Göttingen. In 2019, the plants in Jühnde had to be sold to a company for financial reasons. However, many other communities have been found that are implementing the bioenergy village concept.

What constitutes a bioenergy village

Wood is a possible biomass for the energy production of a bioenergy village.
Wood is a possible biomass for the energy production of a bioenergy village. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / space_drifter)

In order for a village or community to be called a bioenergy village, the location must cover at least 50 percent of its electricity and heat energy consumption with regionally generated bioenergy. For this, a bioenergy village mostly uses biomass, photovoltaics and partly wind energy . However, other alternatives are also possible. Biomass can be, for example, crops, liquid manure or organic waste.

In addition to the generation and use of bioenergy, the focus in a bioenergy village is also on using the energy generated as efficiently as possible. In addition, the villages try to use energy sparingly.

The participation of the citizens is particularly important in a bioenergy village. They support the idea of ​​the bioenergy village and are involved in decisions. It is important that as many people as possible work together and also rely on renewable energies in their private households. In addition, the technical systems for generating bioenergy belong, at least in part, to citizens and customers, such as farmers.

Where are there bioenergy villages?

On the website of the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. currently lists 170 bioenergy villages in Germany. Most of them are in Baden-Württemberg or Bavaria. Another 42 towns are on the way to becoming bioenergy villages – including even Göttingen, which is not at all rural. You can find a more detailed data sheet for each bioenergy village on the website. Among other things, it informs you about how the respective village is currently generating its energy.

However, bioenergy villages are not only found in Germany. For other countries there does not seem to be such a clear listing as for Germany, but an example of a bioenergy village in Austria is Landgut Danzermühle . In Romania, the municipality of Ghelinţa is trying the concept.

This is how bioenergy villages help to protect the climate

Solar systems are also used in a bioenergy village.
Solar systems are also used in a bioenergy village. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / RoyBuri)

Using solar energy via photovoltaics is a well-known method of generating energy, at least without direct CO2 emissions . The Agency for Renewable Resources describes biomass as “solar energy stored in plant form”. This makes it clear that this is also a renewable form of energy: After all, plants grow back relatively quickly. In most methods, the biomass is ultimately burned to release the energy stored in it.

Now you might be thinking: wait a minute, burning produces CO2 – doesn’t that harm the climate? CO2 is actually released during the combustion process, but only as much as the respective plant absorbed during its growth. So there is no additional CO2 and the next generation of plants absorbs the released carbon dioxide again. In that respect, the balance sheet is balanced.

Unfortunately, the calculation doesn’t quite add up in the end, because the plants also have to be planted, cared for, harvested, transported and processed. This also requires energy and releases CO2. That is why you should pay attention to the economical use of energy during these preparatory steps. Overall, energy from biomass has the clear advantage over energy from fossil fuels that it does not release carbon stored millions of years ago in the form of CO2.