Located in southern Brandenburg near Turnow-Preilack, the solar park lies within Lieberose, once the biggest military training ground in the former East Germany.
Seventeen years and €160 million after the last tank rolled over its fields, Juwi Holding AG is ready to turn on the switch.
“Two thirds of the modules are installed and are already producing energy,” Juwi spokesman Ralf Heidenreich said.
The park will be in full operation by December of this year when162 hectares of solar panels will provide an output of 53 megawatts.
Since it gained ownership to the property in 1994, the state of Brandenburg has debated what to do with the 27,000 hectare piece of land. At one point, Lieberose was even proposed as the site of the new Berlin-Brandenburg airport, which is instead being added on to the existing Schönefeld Airport. It is also home to local wildlife and plant species.
“Lieberose has turned into a prime example for the successful connection of climate protection, modern technology and ongoing nature protection,” Juwi executive Matthias Willenbacher said.
Foreign Minister and chancellor candidate for the centre-left Social Democrats Frank-Walter Steinmeier is also lauding the opening of the Lieberose solar power field.
“This shows the tremendous dynamics of new energy sources,” he said. “It’s central to preventing climate change and creates hundreds of thousands new jobs.”
Dieter Friese, the district representative for the Spree-Neiße jurisdiction also championed the opening, adding that cleaning up the old practise grounds was a key step in cleaning up Brandenburg.
The 560,000 solar modules will produce energy fed directly into the state power supply. Brandenburg also recently created the Lausitz Spreewald Innovative Energy Region to create model energy solutions in the face of climate change.
But despite political approval, nature conservationists have reservations. The state nature conservation society (Nabu) said solar panels on the grounds are a great loss for local wildlife.
“We’re still not sure what range of depletion effects it will have on the local bird species,” Brandenburg Nabu spokesman Wolfgang Mädlow said, adding that birds could mistake the reflective surface of the solar panels for a body of water.
Madlöw acknowledged that the removal of the potentially toxic waste was a good thing for the area, but said that his organisation preferred that the solar panels be attached to the roofs of houses.
However, Heiko Schumacher from the Foundation for Natural Landscapes in Brandenburg said that it may already be too late for some species. His organisation has already observed a rapid fall in the local Hoopoe (Upupa epops) species in the area, one of the few in Germany that nests in the region for the summer.