Story 04

Upwind

The wind of change is blowing in Wetzlar, in the most literal sense: The city in Middle Hesse wants to achieve net zero emissions by 2035 and is using wind power as one means of achieving this. Five wind turbines are planned. Koehler Renewable Energy is building two of them – the construction work in a wooded area in the Blasbach district is already underway. We dropped by for a visit.

Anyone going for a walk in the woods in the Blasbach district of Wetzlar these days will not only be able to enjoy fresh air and nature, but also see how a piece of the energy transformation is taking shape: Koehler Renewable Energy is building two new wind turbines here. The company has been a subsidiary of the Koehler Group since 2012, with its headquarters in Oberkirch in the state of Baden-Württemberg. As a manufacturer of specialty paper, the Koehler Group knows the ins and outs of energy. Paper production is energy intensive. Energy efficiency plays a crucial role in this, plus the group is investing in renewable energy projects, such as wind energy, hydropower, photovoltaics, and biomass, through Koehler Renewable Energy.

“Both wind turbines are an important part of our climate protection plans,” explains Manfred Wagner (SPD), Mayor of Wetzlar, during a visit to the construction site on a cool and overcast Friday morning. In fact the city, located in Middle Hesse, wants to reach net zero emissions by 2035. The wind turbines will generate around 23,000 megawatt hours of green electricity a year in the future, which at the moment roughly corresponds to the annual power consumption of around 9,000 two-person households.

The clearing and cable work and the creation of access routes are complete, the foundations of the turbines are in place, and the rotor blades have been delivered. The turbines should be producing electricity by the end of the year. The construction project is special for Koehler Renewable Energy too, as it marks Koehler’s first wind turbines in Germany. The project is also taking the company an important step forward in its sustainability strategy. Koehler Renewable Energy has set itself the goal of producing more energy from its own renewable sources by 2030 than the Koehler Group requires for its paper production operations.

More Money for Other Climate Protection Projects

The collaboration with Koehler Renewable Energy is a major win for the city of Wetzlar, Mayor Wagner says. On the one hand, employees from local companies are working on the construction site: “That creates value.” On the other hand, commercial tax and leasing income is boosting the city coffers, and these funds will go into other climate protection projects. Although Wetzlar’s wind power potential will be exhausted once the city’s wind turbines – five in total – are all complete, the city is also investing in photovoltaic and solar plants and using hydropower, albeit on a smaller scale. Wetzlar’s vehicle fleet, including a bus company, will also benefit from the financial injection, according to the mayor: “We will gradually switch our fleets to hydrogen-powered and electric vehicles.”

Manfred Wagner (SPD) has been wearing the Mayor of Wetzlar chain of office since 2015.

Koehler Renewable Energy is building two wind turbines in a wood in the Blasbach district of Wetzlar.

The two wind turbines are a key part of our climate protection plans.

The two wind turbines are a key part of our climate protection plans.

Manfred Wagner (SPD)

Mayor of Wetzlar

The partnership with Wetzlar is trusting, open, and amicable, praises Nicolas Christoph, Corporate Director for Wind, Hydro, and Solar at Koehler Renewable Energy. “Rarely have we had so much support from a city.” Mayor Wagner is also full of praise for Wetzlar’s project partner: “There is a huge amount of trust between us. We have been through a lot of highs and lows together.”

Indeed, as with so many projects, there were a number of challenges facing the Blasbach wind farm. “We started the planning process ten years ago,” recalls Nicolas Christoph. The lease agreement with the city of Wetzlar has been cut and dried since 2015. However, enthusiasm was not the only reaction local residents had to the building project. There were serious concerns that animal and plant life could be harmed. Koehler Renewable Energy has always taken these worries seriously and been open for discussions, reports Manfred Wagner. For example, Koehler set up several public events. “They gave people the opportunity to express views if they hadn‘t had felt confident doing so at the town meeting,” explains Wagner.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the resulting consequences for energy policy, the public mood swung more in favor of wind power: “That was noticeable here in Wetzlar too.” And yet: “We didn’t manage to convince everyone,” says Wagner. After Gießen regional council approved the construction project in 2020, a citizens’ initiative took legal action against it, but the courts ultimately ruled in favor of the wind farm operator at the start of 2022.

The foundations for the wind turbines are already in place.

Support for Species Conservation

The protection of flora and fauna has always been a priority, something Nicolas Christoph and Mayor Wagner are keen to emphasize: “We have put in place an extensive range of environmental compensation measures,” says Nicolas Christoph. He explains that a wood that had to be temporarily cleared for the construction project contained spruces and larches that were already severely damaged by bark beetles. After the construction work has been completed, around a third of the cleared area, measuring roughly 1.9 hectares, will be reforested. Beeches and oaks will also be planted in a 0.5-hectare area of replacement forestation. Both the restored and new woodland will be established in line with the natural species composition and will take other factors into consideration to ensure a permanent, resilient culture. Nicolas Christoph explains that animal life has also been considered: “We have put up 100 nesting boxes for bats and birds.” Some of the roots of trees felled for the wind farm will now serve as ‘fortresses for wild cats.’

Koehler Renewable Energy is also planning to construct wind turbines in other parts of Hesse – for example in the Gießen and Kassel areas. “We’re also on the lookout in Baden-Württemberg and Thüringen,” explains Nicolas Christoph. The Koehler Group has branches there, so the location is no coincidence: “One of our priorities is to decarbonize our sites. Because of that, we are aiming to have wind farms near them.”

Wetzlar’s mayor knows that rolling out renewable energy is imperative: “We have all done too little to combat climate change in the last few decades.” He also believes it is essential for Germany to be independent of other countries when it comes to energy. “We are proud that our city, in partnership with Koehler Renewable Energy, is able to make an important contribution to a clean energy supply.”

We are proud that we, in partnership with Koehler Renewable Energy, are contributing to a clean energy supply.

We are proud that we, in partnership with Koehler Renewable Energy, are contributing to a clean energy supply.

Manfred Wagner (SPD)

Mayor of Wetzlar

Story 03

Inventive

Koehler Innovation & Technology develops environmentally friendly paper that is being patented.

Story 07

Revolutionary Receipts

Koehler Innovation & Technology has revolutionized the industry with its Blue4est® thermal paper, which is used for till receipts.