analytical Q May-Aug 2000 Sept-Dec 2000 Jan-Apr 2001 Discussion

The Diary
Anne Ku

22 February 2001 Thursday



In the warmth of an old Bavarian farmhouse, I witnessed the transformation of a home business of rearing cattle to hydroelectric generation.

The decline of meat industry, partly due to changing diet and BSE concerns, is evident in the countryside. It was too dark to visit all sixty cows asleep in the barn. But the farmer and his wife showed me a leaflet of the four holiday flats they let. Holidaymakers come here to fish, walk, and visit the giant grinder and mixer in this former flour miller's house built in the late 1700's.

Strategically situated above a river, the "run of river" hydroelectric generator produces enough electricity to run the mill. Nowadays, any extra electricity is fed into E.ON's grid. Under German Renewable Energy Law, the transmission system operator E.ON is obliged to pay 15 pfennigs per kilowatt hour. This is a hefty sum, considering the average wholesale price of power is only 4 pfg/kWh.

The farmer's wife had inherited this house and land from her father who had been a flour miller. Her husband renovated the mill to become a museum and breakfast room for guests in the separate flats. Tonight she told us the sort of guests she preferred. Families and couples are best. No smokers or groups of male fishermen.

By chance I know someone who works in the energy industry, loves fishing, and doesn't smoke or eat beef. He would certainly enjoy spending a Bavarian summer here.

I told this Bavarian couple that I had studied, read, heard, and spoke of run-of-river hydroelectric generation, but this was the first time that I had the opportunity to see it.