Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Berlin Solar-Energy Plan Would Let the Sunshine in Big Capital Project

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Berlin Solar-Energy Plan Would Let the Sunshine in Big Capital Project

Article excerpt

Andreas Knoch clambers up the scaffolding of a newly constructed two-story building in the German capital.

On the roof, the engineer points to a double row of sleek solar panels lying flush with the shingles. The panels will provide future residents with 60 percent of their hot water.

"On a day like today the collectors probably wouldn't be working," says Mr. Knoch as he scans the gray November sky. But he adds, "An overcast sky is not always overcast," since even on cloudy days solar radiation can be high. For 10 years Knoch's engineering firm AKUT has specialized in environmentally friendly technologies, pioneering the practical applications of solar power. Now his experience could be in greater demand, since Berlin's construction industry recently committed itself to installing solar collectors in 75 percent of all new buildings. Although not formally part of the government's goal of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by one quarter by 2005, the industry's plan aims for a similar reduction through better insulation, energy conservation, and solar power. Two years ago the Berlin legislature passed an ordinance setting ambitious guidelines for solar-power use. The city government never put the ordinance into effect however, and critics charge that the construction lobby stalled long enough for a building boom following German unification in 1990 to pass. The industry, for its part, claims that the voluntary commitment will outdo the legislature's proposal. If, after five years, the construction industry does not attain its CO2 reduction goal as well as the installation of 4,200 square yards of solar collectors, the 1995 solar ordinance will take effect. "The {city} government wanted a partnership not to irritate industry but to cooperate with it," says Rita Neise of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, a signatory of the industry initiative. She defends the "integrated solution" of the initiative, which focuses on solar energy as a means of energy conservation rather than a goal in and of itself. In the past, the German capital has been at the forefront in promoting solar energy. A combination of subsidies from the government and the city's power company provided up to 60 percent of the funding for solar-heating projects. …

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