Hohensaaten: 370 hectares of forest to be replaced by a solar park

Hohensaaten Solar Park

The investor wants to clear 370 ha of forest for a photovoltaic park

Wed 04/05/22 | 06:18 | FROM Filip Gerstner

Video: Brandenburg News | 04/05/2022 | P. Gerstnera / W. Siebert | Picture: dpa / Patrick Pleul

370 hectares of forest are to be cleared for the construction of a huge solar park in Hohensaaten. The Lindhorst Group project is controversial – yet it has been approved by the vast majority of city councilors. Research by “Correctiv” and rbb.

The forest inspector Martin Krüger looks anxiously out the window as he drives a dirt road towards Hohensaaten (Märkisch-Oderland). The forest around him is still densely overgrown, but that may change soon. According to the forest owner’s plans, the lush greenery should be replaced with solar panels in the future, according to corrective studies [www.correctiv.org] and rbb came out. In the middle of the forest, a huge solar park is to be created, which is to generate green electricity and thus power, among others, newly established data center and industrial and commercial area.

370 hectares of forest are to be cleared for the construction of a huge solar park in Hohensaaten.  The Lindhorst Group project is controversial - yet it has been approved by the vast majority of city councilors.  (Source: rbb)
Forester Martin Krüger | Picture: rbb

The project would require the clearance of 370 hectares, an area larger than Tesla’s. The project aims to promote the energy transition, but the forest inspector believes that forests would have to be cleared to be the wrong approach. “We cried in 2020 that 300,000 hectares of forest have died out in Germany – and today, two years later, we are releasing forest areas for deforestation. These contradictions in society are serious. “

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Axel Vogel (Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen), Brandenburg Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Climate Protection (Source: dpa / Soeren Stache)

dpa / Soeren Stache

Brandenburg Environment Minister Axel Vogel (Greens) has rejected plans to build a solar park in the Brandenburg municipality of Bad Freienwalde. Vogel said Wednesday in Inforadiu rbb24 that there are enough other areas. Cutting the forest for a solar park is “totally absurd”.

Value of the forest disputed

The forest has not been used by passers-by for a long time. The entire area is surrounded by a rusty metal fence. Signs warn: “Restricted area!” No entry! Danger to life”. There are military ruins with open shafts on the site.

Ammunition found during World War II may also have been scattered on the ground. At that time, tall pine trees served as a hiding place for making explosives. The NVA has been using the site as a tank farm since the mid-1950s. According to the city of Bad Freienwalde, the forest is unusable due to the contaminated areas and is therefore a suitable place for solar energy production.

The forester Martin Krüger sees it differently. Due to its untouched nature, the forest has become a refuge for various wild animals, such as an eagle owl, a black stork or a white-tailed eagle. Moreover, the forest is already developing itself into a sustainable mixed forest. “Just like we all wanted to do,” says the 52-year-old.

The forester warns that clearing forest areas may lead to the extinction of species and massively disrupt the local climate. “This forest wedge that enters the landscape here cools the climate, especially in the summer months. It is extremely important for the population. The people of Hohensaateen will feel it. “

The idea and money come from Lower Saxony

The investor and developer of the photovoltaic park is the Lindhorst Group, a large agricultural company from Lower Saxony. In 2019, the group bought a forest area. In addition to the solar park, the group also plans to establish a hydrogen industry on the site. However, producing hydrogen and operating a data center requires a lot of water. The project may increase water scarcity in an already very dry region.

Renewable energy is the official area of ​​the group’s activity. Lindhorst was already one of the largest investors in the biogas boom phase. Currently, the company focuses on large-scale photovoltaics, even with its own design office.

On the Internet, Lindhorst presents itself as a sustainable farm and highlights the importance of forests for the conservation of biodiversity. In addition, the group says it is becoming increasingly involved in reforestation. However, it seems that Lindhorst does not always live up to the promises made on the Internet. According to Correctiv, some trees in existing PV projects in Lindhorst areas have been felled without consultation and the requirement for compensatory measures has not been met. Neither Lindhorst nor the contracted planning office responded to a request from rbb and the Correctiv research network to discuss these allegations and the Hohensaaten project.

370 hectares of forest are to be cleared for the construction of a huge solar park in Hohensaaten.  The Lindhorst Group project is controversial - yet it has been approved by the vast majority of city councilors.  (Source: rbb)

Bad Freienwalde votes on the Lindhorst project

Despite the problems the project might have posed, 16 of the 21 city councils of Bad Freienwalde voted in December in favor of a solar park with an industrial and commercial area.

SPD’s Reinhard Schmook says he was particularly impressed with the presentation by the planning office. He also hopes for economic benefits for Hohensaaten. “When an industrial and commercial park is built, tax revenues are generated,” says the city councilor. “We assume that the municipality of Hohensaaten can count on a certain proportion of economic gains to help finance its own infrastructure assets.”

The greens in the city’s parliament also voted in favor of the Lindhorst project. However, they did not want to explain to us how the decision was made. So we spoke to Susann Altvater who represents the Greens in the Märkisch-Oderland county council. “This was discussed in the city council. It was said that we want to become climate neutral. Here, too, we want to decentralize energy supplies, ”he says. – And then the positive arguments probably prevailed.

Now her friends at the party aren’t sure if they really made the right decision, says Altvater. “You are slowly realizing that a very large piece of forest is about to be cleared and that environmental impact assessments are likely to yield different results – and that you need to change course again, at least reduce the system.”

Headwind is from the AfD. The faction was the only one to vote against the solar park. “We already have enough photovoltaic areas,” says AfD city councilor Lars Günther. For him, the technology offers too little power security. In addition, the AfD has doubts about the Lindhorst Group, says Günther. “The concern for me and many others is that other areas on the site will also be developed with photovoltaics, step by step, using salami tactics.”

Final decision still open

Ralf Lehmann (CDU), mayor of Bad Freienwalde, does not want to comment on the project. There is nothing new, he says. The responsible authorities are currently examining the project and its impact on the environment, nature and water. This may take up to two years. It is not yet possible to predict when or if the solar park will appear at all.

The district forester Martin Krüger hopes that Lindhorst will not be able to implement his ideas. “If you notice here that we are cutting forests for the solar systems, then we are on the wrong track. This is a bad way for a future society. “

Transmission: rbb24-Brandenburg Aktuell on May 4, 2022 at 19:30

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Contribution by Philipp Gerstner

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