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Brandenburg, Germany

Lieberoser Heide: Europe’s largest solar farm finances munitions clearing

Affected population 1,379
By Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung Brussels Office


The  example  of  Lieberoser Heide shows how the public sector can become economically active at the local level in renewable energy projects.

The  former  GDR  used  large  parts  of  the  country  as  military  training  grounds. Much like the Western allies, the Red Army did not care too much about protecting  the  environment.  Worse  still,  after  the  Berlin  wall  fell,  large  parts  of  these areas were left to lie fallow. In many places, like the Lieberoser Heide in Brandenburg, heathlands and forests are therefore full of unexploded ordnances and ammunition. Clearing these areas is extremely expensive but necessary, because  otherwise  the  forests  would  not  be  safe  for  hikers,  sheepherders  or  forest wardens to access, and buried toxic waste barrels could rust through and pollute the groundwater.

Most  of  Lieberoser Heide  belongs  to  Brandenburg  and  is  managed  by  Brandenburg’s  local  forest  management  authority.  The  agency  developed  a concept to finance the clearing of the forest from ammunition based on a solar energy  project,  which  was  to  gain  model  character  for  other  military  training  grounds.  A  large  meadow  in  the  zone  was  particularly  contaminated.  It  was  leased  to  a  large  institutional  investor,  who  built  a  solar  farm—at  the  time  the largest in Europe—on an area of 114 hectares in the middle of the forest. Lease income (8.3 million EUR) paid for the de-contamination and clearing of the meadow and the rest of the forest from ammunition.[1] By 2013, half of the forest had been re-opened to the public.[2]

The success of this model led to the building of another large solar park covering 61 hectares. Once the whole area has been cleared up, Brandenburg will continue to receive lease payments. Both clearing up the area and the construction of the solar farms was labour intensive, which means that for around three years 200 people found employment here. This definitely boosted the local economy. The project would have been even more consistent had Brandenburg’s state pension scheme financed the solar farms, but this was blocked by the  Brandenburg  state  government.  Nonetheless,  the  example  of  Lieberoser Heide shows how the public sector can become economically active at the local level in renewable energy projects.

[1] Interview with a representative of the local forest management authority on 23.4.2013.


This article is presented in the Energy democracy in Europe, A survey and outlook by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in 2014.

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