Sunday, January 20, 2008

Solar Ulm Germany

The city of Ulm Germany is a green traveler’s delight. It is biker friendly and boasts its own solar energy foundation. My hosts in Ulm live in one of the surrounding towns and they both bike to work every day in the city – in fact they don’t own a car. They have studded winter tires on their bikes and one bike has clocked over 150,000 km in just a couple of years.
My hosts occasionally borrow their parent’s car and between the two families (my hosts and the parents) they have put a whopping 2,500 km on the car in just over a year. This was slightly embarrassing for this green traveler who at home puts between 25,000 and 30,000 miles per year on her car – over ten times what they do. My miniscule off-set was riding a borrowed bicycle to and from the city with them.
Germany has a Solar League – - where cities and towns compete to get the highest solar rating in the league. Ulm and Freiborg vie for 1st place in their large city size grouping and they are considered to be the two most solar cities in the country. Freiborg is considered the greenest overall and has a Green party member for mayor.
The city of Ulm leases roofs to companies who want to put solar photovoltaic electric panels on them, and Ulm works with schools to use more solar and renewable energy. The German government also provides generous subsidies to any homeowner or farmer that wants to put solar hot water or electric panels on their property. Many parking garages have photovoltaics on their roofs as well. The largest passive office building in the world is near the Ulm University. And nearby, there is a development of passive, single family homes built during the Project 2000 Expo. Everywhere we were – in the city and in the countryside – solar panels were on many house and barn roofs.
Ulm’s Solar Foundation can be found at: - Solarstiftung, Muncherstrasse 4, Ulm; 071-161-6080. They offer a self-guided solar tour through Ermingen, which includes 12 houses with solar photovoltaic and/or hot water panels. The Foundation operates a solar ferry and solar-infomobil in Ulm during the summer months.
My last day there – a very foggy day - we went to see the source of the Blau (Blue) river that runs through Ulm and the surrounding villages. It really is Blue at the source and comes from deep underground limestone caves which adventuresome divers have discovered. In the car we went on our own solar tour – easy to do in that area, and then came to six, ghostly, gentle giants in a huge pasture – with the slightest whoosh as the windmill arms turned. It took my breath away. I was thrilled to see the windmills so close through the mist and fog.
My tours of health food stores in Ulm turned up some delicious items including milk chocolate made with organic sheep milk instead of cow’s milk - ; and the same but with organic Goat’s milk - Both are made by H&H Chocolade Manufactur in Vienna, Austria.
There were lots of organic wines, and organic and gluten-free beers. Natural cosmetics and personal care products are abundant in Germany with special standards overseen by the BDiH - Bundesverband deutscher-Industrie-und Handelsunternehmen – the certification seal for natural cosmetics in Germany. Websites at: and
On a non-green note, I went to the opera in Ulm. The arts are heavily subsidized. The most expensive ticket to the theater is 33 Euros, a far cry from the cost in the states. The audience was incredibly well behaved, punctual and there were no cell phones glowing during intermission – everyone had turned them off for the evening - how refreshing. The opera was Verdi’s Macbeth – thank goodness I know the story since it was sung in Italian with German subtitles.
My three days in Germany went quickly – and now off to Switzerland.

1 comment:

Graham Addicott said...


I wonder if you could help? I am making a short film on the Energon Building in Ulm for a broadcast series on Sustainable Development and would also like to include some other 'green' features in the town. Do you have any contacts I could get in touch with there? Thanks for any help. Graham Addicott. My email address is