The explorer’s guide to Europe’s smartest island

Posted 14/04/2016 by E.ON

Imagine rolling green hills, endless blue skies and a postman who waits for low tide to deliver his letters. No, it’s not the idyllic world of children’s fiction, but the very real, modern-day island of Pellworm, Germany.

As postcard-perfect as Pellworm is, it’s more than just a pretty face. It’s Europe’s smartest island and is pioneering the very best in new energy technologies – technologies that might one day form the blueprint for our renewable future.

Never heard of the island? Don’t worry, we’ve spoken to Sonke Meesenburg, a local Pellworm farmer, to get the inside track on what life is like on the island and what the future might hold.

Windmill on Pellworm smart island - E.ON

Facts and figures

Spanning just 37miles2, Pellworm is the third largest island in the German North Sea. Pellworm might be small, but it is most definitely mighty. That’s because it pioneers brand new energy initiatives and prides itself on the very best in renewable technology. And the proof is in the pudding -  Pellworm is home to just 1,175 people, but produces 22.5 million kWh/year – that’s about twice as much as the island needs to sustain itself.

An island steeped in history

Pellworm used to be part of a much larger island called Strand. In 1634, a devastating storm hit and the island was broken into three – Nordstrand,  Nordstrandischmoor and Pellworm. Since then, Pellworm has thrived as a small farming community. More recently, tourism has bolstered its economy too. In 1983, the first hybrid power plant was built on Pellworm and by 1997, a renewable energy plan was drawn up. And so a smart island was born…

Pellworm smart island solar panels - E.ON

Photographer: Carsten Bernot

The smart bit

E.ON’s Smart Region Pellworm Initiative is a project designed to help the island generate all of its own energy. As a result, Pellworm is home to one of the largest hybrid renewable energy plants in Europe. It uses a mixture of solar and wind sources to be completely renewable and self-sustaining. In fact, Pellworm even has enough energy leftover to ship back to mainland Europe. Nice.

Innovative technology

Although Pellworm is great at producing energy, it’s even better at controlling it. E.ON’s state-of-the-art energy management system links the power plants, storage batteries and smart meters in residents’ homes together, so that E.ON can understand the island’s power needs and predict the energy that needs to be generated. By using two types of batteries, Pellworm can store energy for both the long and short term. So, even in times when energy is hard to generate (for example, if it isn’t sunny), there is always enough in reserve.

Lighthouse on Pellworm smart island - E.ON

Seeing the sights

Pellworm is beautiful and experiences above average hours of sunshine, which explains its appeal to tourists! Local expert Sonke recommends climbing the lighthouse to see panoramic views of the island and the sea. The endless hills are perfect for walking and cycling, and the famous tour of the old church is a must for visitors. Don’t forget the duck decoy either – although it’s not in use today, the old bird-catching area has been converted into a beautiful park and orchard.

Hidden secrets

Pellworm has a big secret hidden beneath its surface. Wait until low tide, Sonke tells us, and the mud flats slowly reveal themselves with the ebb and flow of the current. The tide goes out for six hours and then people (including the postman) can cross the flats to see mussels, crabs and mud worms. Just be careful not to get caught out as the underwater landscape becomes submerged again…

aerial shot of Pellworm smart island - E.ON

Getting around

So how do you get there? Just jump on the ferry from the island next door, Nordstrand. Once you’re on the island, strap on your walking boots or hire a bike – then breathe in the fresh North Sea air as you take in the island!

One community

Although only a thousand people live there, Sonke is proud of the island’s strong sense of community. There’s a real appreciation for nature and the locals love getting outdoors, he tells us. They’re also friendly and welcoming to visitors – as long as they don’t disrupt the peace and tranquillity of the island, of course!

Vision of the future

Pellworm might be beautiful, but it’s so much more than that. The island gives us a sneak peak into what the energy systems of the future might look like. Not only will they be renewable, but they’ll also be self-sustaining. At E.ON, we’re proud to be working in partnership with Pellworm and are excited for what the future holds.

Bringing a slice of Pellworm to the UK

If you’re interested in doing your bit to move towards renewable energy here in the UK, E.ON are a registered Feed-In-Tariff supplier. Feed-In-Tariffs are a government initiative to encourage people to generate their own low-carbon energy. And because we’re committed to helping, we will pay you for the energy you produce. If you’d like more information on Feed-In-Tariffs, visit the government website here.

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