It's unlikely that many small rural villages get a lot of visitors from countries as diverse as Korea and the U.S., but little Feldheim, Germany does. And the visitors aren't coming as tourists. They want to find out how the village (population: 125) became Germany's first and so far only village that can say it's entirely energy self-sufficient.
So why are international energy experts and politicians stopping by?
"We're seen as pioneers and the world wants to know whether they can duplicate our success," explained former teacher Joachim Gebauer, who was quoted in a Reuters story about the remote village. Gebauer, who serves as guide for the visitors, added "No coal or gas is burned here, it's all clean."
What visitors to Feldheim will see is a blend of renewable energy solutions: 43 wind turbines, a woodchip-fired heating facility and a biogas plant powered by cattle and pig slurry and maize silage. Residents pay 16.6 euro cents per kilowatt hour for their power, a bit more than half of the amount Germans typically pay. The rates are similar to those in Poland, where almost all electricity is generated by coal-fired plants.
Feldheim isn't a German oddball by any means. But it is a very successful example of what Germany is trying to do to get away from coal and nuclear power. The country plans to get 80% of its electricity from renewable generation by 2050.
And Feldheim didn't get its clean energy bragging rights free. Overall Germans paid an additional 17 billion euros (a little over $22 billion) for power, which includes renewable energy subsidies that have made developing clean power very attractive in the country. The low power bills Feldheim residents pay can at least in part be attributed to subsidies and other assistance.
To begin the energy transformation, all of the village's homeowners agreed to pay 3,000 euros ($3,857) in fees to connect to new power and gas lines, removing them from the regional electric grid. Then, the village got 850,000 euros (a little over $1 million) in European Union and government assistance to help pay for the new pipelines.
The local company that installed most of the wind turbines sells the excess power they generate, and the local agricultural co-op agreed to raise corn for the biogas plant.
According to the story, officials do realize that all of the support it has received may not make Feldheim a model for bigger cities wanting an energy makeover.
As German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier was quoted as saying, "You can't do it the same way everywhere in Germany. But I believe it can be a role model for many rural communities."