starting up our own green power production unit: 4 solar panels, March 2000
PV "van boven"

Zonnepanelen uit de ruimte - Solar panels on Earth out of space

© all photographs Google Earth except where indicated


Energy harvesting at its worst and at its best in the same area:

Lignite strip mining in Germany's Nordrhein-Westfalen with a marginal "sustainable" edge to it

Situated in the triangle Köln - Mönchen-Gladbach - Aachen with "modern" additions of small windfarms and, surprisingly, a minute PV-"test" plant (?)

Strip mining from space - satellite image overview
Map - overview of Garzweiler mining area

"Energy landscape" of the Jülicher Börde - modern times in a torn German region (webmaster's commentary)

Garzweiler I strip mining area - photographic overview

Frimmersdorf PV plant map detail
Small PV power plant (owned by RWE) - overview
Ibid - closer view
Ibid - detail of various solar panel arrays
Portion of one of small adjacent wind farms

"Abraumförderbrücke" - example of immense machinery used in strip mines
Photographic view from the rim of a lignite strip mine (Aldenhoven)
Lignite processing plant
Processing plant - detail
Braunkohle Kraftwerkanlage I (lignite powerplant nr. I)
BKKW I - detail
Deserted house in Altdorf† (Aldenhoven area, 2000)
Resettlement area north of Hochneukirch (Garzweiler area)
Hambach south - another lignite strip mine


Strip mining from space - overview (Google)

A landscape changed and defaced by man, clearly visible from space.
The most important lignite strips mines on the rims of the brown coal
containing plateau of the Jülicher Börde are indicated. Some are at the end
of their "economic" exploitation life time, others (e.g., the gigantic Garzweiler
project), are under full swing and will be exploited for decades to come.
The scale of the area shown is approximately 43 x 36 kilometers...
CLICK on Garzweiler area for more detailed map (below).

Map of Garzweiler lignite strip mining area on the "Jülicher Börde" plateau between Erkelenz, Grevenbroich
and Bedburg, WNW. of Köln. Note the astonishing scale of the mining activities (still only a portion of the
"Grand Total" in the whole area). "Tagebau" = round-the-clock strip mining. Dashed thick red lines:
actual and/or planned mining areas; continuous blue lines: important roads, among many others, that have to vanish
or that are already (being) demolished, the important A44 Motorway (center) among them.
All the communities within the GI or GII(Garzweiler strip mine) area will vanish or have already (partly) been destroyed.
People will (have to) move to the brand-new villages constructed out of nothing, indicated by purple stars
on top of the map fragment.
The big yellow star on the right indicates the position of the small Frimmersdorf/Neurath PV-plant.
© 1998 ADFC-Radtourenkarte (cycle map) nr. 15 "Rheinland/Eifel" 1:150.000
(note: on this type of map, motorways are indicated in white; most cyclable roads in red and orange)
CLICK on G I area for overview photo obtained with Google Earth in the frame further down below.

"Energy landscape" of the Jülicher Börde - modern times in a torn German region

Peter J. Segaar, author and webmaster of Dutch Solar/Sustainable Energy platform Polder PV

The map above shows an area west and south of Grevenbroich, a village lying at the edge of one of (progressive) Germany's worst "energy related regions", the lignite strip mining area in the triangle between Köln, Mönchen-Gladbach and Aachen in Nordrhein-Westfalen (just east from the most southeasterly province Limburg of the Netherlands). The area depicted is only a small portion of the total area, part of which has already been destructed at a scale almost unimagineable to human beings. The huge, kilometers long scars are easily visible from space, have a depth of a few hundred meters, several villages are destroyed, compensation is lax and low, people who have lived in their villages for decades have to move to a newly built area totally unknown to them, social fabric of communities is being torn apart, a cathedral will be destroyed and not rebuilt, the machines that disrupt the landscape are among the biggest in the world and made by former WOII tycoon KRUPP, and, if all this is not bad enough, the brown coal (lignite) that is harvested here at an alarming rate, is burnt in various huge power plants that put an amount of CO2 in the air that is mind-boggling.

The bright side also has its counterpart. It shows "the other side" of a country which, because of political will, boldness, and a basic ecological approach of life, has been extremely succesfull in pushing sustainable energy technologies to the forefront and that is already earning huge amounts of money by exporting their knowledge and sustainable products abroad. Germany is a country in which BMW's can and may ride as fast as possible on the motorways, but it also has thousands and thousands of well-visited organic food shops. The country has shown to the world that sustainable energy can, is, and will be a success, if good law-making is done and an investor climate is created that promises a long, stabile incentive climate through, for example, performance (kWh production) related rebates for decentralized sustainable energy producing wind-, photovoltaic, and clean biomass installations. Germany, in doing so, and because of this absolute and essential fundament under the sustainable energy law (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz), has become world leader in actually erected windpower volume, and in photovoltaic Wattpeak power installed on zillions of private, industrial and communal roofs, on abandoned agricultural fields and on unused, heavily polluted environmental wastelands like (lignite) mining areas and former nuclear missile storage sites and other military areas. Hence: Germany DOES show that it can work on "the good side of things" in a very succesful manner, but the present page shows that there is also "another side of that glorifying medal".

PV and lignite - good "match"? One could wonder as to why in the landscape shown in this page, which is reminiscent of the surface of the moon, one would "want" to install some wind turbines or, even, a small, totally insignificant PV-plant. The answer is, undoubtedly, strongly related to that cancerous human deficit called "money". Off course, not one intelligent human being wants to invest one single eurocent in this massively raped area. Hence: "soil" prices are as low as you can get, and therefore, to add to the "poison-green image" of the landscape tearing companies (heavily backed by the NRW government because they get a lot of supercheap kWh by allowing these monstrosities), these "sustainable", but on the present scale totally insignificent energy production units are just a grey-green scam on top of a black, very black period of German energy history.

The future of lignite - promising, despite environmental destruction. Rumours abound among these premises. "Our" southern (Dutch) province Limburg is having serious groundwater problems because of the absurd scale and depth of the mining activities which, despite the monstrous water-containment activities (which cost huge amounts of energy to implement!), is "leaking" groundwater eastward at an astonishing scale. It is all starting just over 10 kilometers from the border with NRW. One of the Netherlands biggest consumers of "green electricity", the "Nederlandse Spoorwegen" (national railway company), however, is said to having also a fat contract for huge consumption of cheap electricity from these lignite burning coal plants. How low can you get? There are several big energy companies such as RWE Power wanting to burn lots and lots more of this devilish lignite, and they and others have serious plans for brown coal energy plants of 670 to over 2.000 megawatts a piece. The plans encompass a flabbergasting foreseen extraction rate of an amount of 1.570 billion tons of brown coal/lignite until the year 2045. This fact alone is a bloody serious threat to the hard-needed development of sustainable ways of producing energy, because of the artificial market destruction due to the absurd low price of the lignite-burning kilowatthours, in which not one single environmental damage penalty fee is incorporated!

Kyoto protocol? "Go out of our way, we want to earn a lot of money, and the future of our planet is not in our interest!" That seems to be the unpleasant line of thought of the people responsible for this extremely destructive, nature and people destroying business.

A light ray in a dark world. One meagre "advantage" of these "Works of the Devil": A large portion of the A44 Motorway ("Autobahn") between Aachen ("Kreuz Jackerath") and Mönchen-Gladbach ("Kreuz Holz" SW. of Jüchen) will cease to exist as the soil on which it is built will be shoveled away with the biggest "Schaufelradbagger" (Bucket wheel excavator) in the world, shoveling 240.000 tons of coal or covering layers a day, with a length of 240 meters, height of 96 meter and a bucket wheel measuring 21,6 meter. This kind of monster machine is being handled by a single person who is not doing much of the day (or night, extraction is a continuous process in this Man-made Hell) because most of the extraction and transport processes are automated...

Not only here. This is not the only area in which lignite is excavated at such an absurd magnitude in Germany. In the DDR (former East Germany), it was also excavated in an extremely environmentally unfriendly manner, for example in the surroundings of Leipzig, in which many lignite day mines have been shut since the Fall of the Iron Curtain, and businesses are rapidly growing in the sustainable energy business, PV among them growing "like cabbage". However, there are still large mines being stripped of their abundant ore, such as the huge Weiswasser-mine in the Muskauer Heide area in north-east Germany, close to the border with Poland. And there are more, comparable large-scale threats like the enormous "tar sand deposits" in Canada, that are equally starting to be exploited via a tremendous, landscape destructive strip-mining approach because of the continuously rising oil-prices. Threats abound, but let's remain positive and go for solar and all these other much more environmentally friendly, decentralized, non-disruptive ways of energy production close to our homes or on top of those scams that we hope will soon be part of the past.

Shell Solar's 5 MWp Espenhain project has been erected a few years ago on top of a stripped lignite mine and many large PV-plants are following suit, either in ecological "desaster" areas, or on industrial large scale roofs. In addition, and probably more important, thousands and thousands of private and small-scale industrial and communal roofs are covered with solar panels by their owners or even by rental corporations. The (sustainable) future is ours!

One of several huge "desaster areas" (planned for) lignite mining. The areas delineated with dashed red lines will be totally excavated, some to a depth of an astonishing 210 meter below the surface. Garzweiler I is the biggest sofar, but G II, to the west will make it even larger, the two together measuring in total an area with a surface of app. 104 km². Numbers in rectangles indicate existing road numbers (Google road overlay); the section of A44 Motorway indicated with a blue arrow will vanish from the earth as GII will follow GI. BKKW I and II are lignite burning power plants of immense scale, "Braunkohle Kraftwerke"). WKA I and II are small hills left (or deposits heaped up) on which small wind turbine plants have been erected ("Wind Kraftanlagen"). In the yellow circle indicated with arrow a minute (test?) PV plant just north of Neurath, details of which you will also find below. Scale (2 km.) is roughly indicated with a black bar. Some areas on this photomap are CLICKABLE and will point to details of structures: move mouse over the photo, and where the pointer turns into a hand details can be shown by clicking the left mouse button.

Detail of map shown in overview, indicating the Frimmersdof -
Neurath area ('wind" = windfarm on hilltop). This cycle map is
the very first (German) map on which I have found a specific marker
revealing a "sightseeing" tip related to a photovoltaic power plant.
In German that reads as "Photovoltaik-anlage", indicated with
the red circle encircling the "o" of "Frimmersdorf" (not exactly on the spot,
but for a map of this scale not really a problem)

© 1998 ADFC-Radtourenkarte (cycle map) nr. 15 "Rheinland/Eifel" 1:150.000

Overview of the PV-plant north of Neurath, lying between the
"Energiestraße" (Energy Road...) and one of many, dark green ponds,
once deep pits filled with now extracted brown coal/lignite. Detail following below:

Detail of photovoltaic (test?) plant with different types of solar modules and slightly different orientations
(south at bottom).

Close-up of previous photograph clearly revealing individual PV-modules of different types.
Note colour differences of lower PV-system, reason unknown.

More info on this remarkable PV installation is given on the website (leaflet with photo, linked below) of the gigantic energy producer (overwhelmingly lignite as source) RWE, that appears to be the owner of this test installation:

"Die Fotovoltaikanlage am Neurather See. Dort, wo früher Braunkohle abgebaut wurde und heute der Neurather See liegt, liefert eine Fotovoltaikanlage Strom aus Sonnenlicht. Über 3.700 Module bedecken eine Fläche von 3.500 Quadratmetern. Am Neurather See kommen erstmals neu entwickelte Großmodule zum Einsatz, die fast zweieinhalb Quadratmeter groß sind. Die Fotovoltaikanlage hat eine Spitzenleistung von 360 Kilowatt und erzeugt pro Jahr etwa 270.000 Kilowattstunden Strom. Das reicht aus, um rund 70 Haushalte mit elektrischer Energie zu versorgen."

Translation Peter J. Segaar/Polder PV. Source: RWE leaflet:

"The photovoltaic power plant near the Neurather See. Where in the early days lignite was extracted and now the Neurather See is situated, a photovoltaic power plant generates electricity from sunlight. More than 3.700 PV-modules cover a surface of 3.500 square meters. In the Neurather See power plant for the first time newly developed large PV modules are used, having a surface of almost 2-and-a-half square meter a piece. The PV-plant has a nominal peak power of 360 Kilowatt(peak) and generates approximately 270.000 kilowatthours a year. With this output, the electrical demand of approximately 70 (German) households can be covered."

Close-up of southern tip of Windkraft Anlage I shown in the photographic overview, revealing 3
(of a total of 7 on this hill) wind turbines with shadow on top of the (artificial?)
hill left on the SE margin of Garzweiler strip mine I. WKA II, situated on a separate hill,
has approximately 14 turbines.

So, that's nice: sustainable energy!
Well, wake up, readers, because HERE COMES THE REAL STUFF!!!!

One of several "monster machines" in the big Aldenhoven strip mine,
with a huge shadow on the barren, lifeless, extracted soil
(see overview for location of Aldenhoven plant).
This one apparently is removing the covering layers from the brown coal
and is called in German "Abraumförderbrücke". Note the huge conveyor
belt on the left side, that may be several kilometers long.
To understand the scale of the apparatus:
From the Google Earth readings it was shown that the image is (virtually)
"taken" at 1.305 feet altitude, which is approximately 400 meters.

Only a small fraction of the huge Aldenhoven lignite strip mine, as seen from an old
road abutting the mine at the SE rim near Kirchberg and that "vanishes" with a sheer,
100 meter drop (thank god for the fence).
Just under the tree only the tip of a large bucket wheel excavator
is seen at the "horizon"(too misty to discern), eating away one of at least 3 "platforms"
lying at different altitudes. These platforms contain the large, "worthless" covering layer
packets that must be removed to reach the brown coal. Water is everywhere on the bare
surface of the bottom, drainage is a huge problem in these mines and ground water problems
abound. Pumping away the copious amounts of water involved in these areas costs,
again, immense amounts of .... electricity. For scale comparison: yellow circle contains
one of our bikes, in front just visible, with plastic wrapping, one of the many drainage pipes.
The planned route on our recently purchased cycle map was already gone
when we wanted to cross the area; the small village Pattern was no more ...
© May 4 2000 Peter J. Segaar/Polder PV

Detail of photographic overview (Garzweiler I) of area below the words "der Autobahn" on that photo.
of one of the facilities where the brown coal/lignite is concentrated, delivered by huge,
many km. long conveyor belt systems, for transport to the monstrous power plants.
Note the incredible scale: arrow indicates a (huge) parking lot with lots of - almost invisible - cars!
My guess is that the green tree strip at bottom has been preserved or otherwise planted to prevent
the curving road at bottom to wash away by flooding water in this defaced, tree-less hilly land...
CLICK on upper part of image to show huge transport cranes shown in detail below.

Detail of image shown above. Huge cranes on rails continuously moving enormous
amounts of extracted lignite. Machinery in these premises is of a dazzling scale.

Braunkohle Kraftwerkanlage I
(RWE Frimmersdorf 2.136 MW net production)
This is what it's all about: burning immense
"mountains" of supercheap brown coal in huge
power plants to try to "keep up" with western
society's unstoppable appetite for energy at
bottom prices resulting in massive waste of
cheap energy and enormous amounts of CO2 blasted
into the air. Kyoto? Third World? Never heard of....
Detail below.

Small fragment (!) of the NE facade of the monstrously big Frimmersdorf Kraftwerk in the photographic overview.
Black arrow indicates one of the parking lots with cars, to show, again, the immense scale of this facility.
One of at least three smoke (?) stacks indicated with asterisk (*).

Deserted, beautiful "Zweifamilienwohnung" with potential high market
value in the ghost city (year 2000) of Altdorf at the SE rim of the
Aldenhovenstrip mine. A felled tree has landed on top of the greenhouse
to the left,
destruction abound, and this house, the trees in the
background, and the road over which we cycled along the rim of the strip mine:
everything has now been demolished and ceases to exist.
The surface level where the photographer has taken this photo 6 years
ago now is possibly one hundred metres above solid soil and maybe prone
to a further dig deep down in Mother Earth's tormented mantle.
© May 4 2000 Peter J. Segaar/Polder PV

Resettlement area direct north of Hochneukirch, NNE of Garzweiler strip mine II.
Note that apparently not all (Google) photographs are of the same timeframe,
possibly because the landscape in these surroundings is changing so rapidly
that not all actual photographic information was available at time of publication.
The dark rectangles are probably taken during the preparation phase; in the lighter
left upper handcorner, new houses can already be seen. Note the abruptly ending,
unfinished intersection of the motorway in the upper right hand corner.

Impression of the surrealistic landscape of another lignite strip mine,
Hambach, situated more to the south of the gigantic Garzweiler mine,
east of the small city Jülich, from which this "fossil plateau" has derived
its - infamous - name. The straight lines are immense, kilometers-long
conveyor belts that transport the ore from the huge bucket-wheel excavators
to the processing facilities. All on an inhuman, incomprehensive, and
uncontrollable scale that promotes energy waste and inefficiency and
that results in massive destruction of whole landscapes, innocent peoples'
lives and that destroys our common environment.


"Braunkohleabbau - hautnah. Fotodokumentation zum Braunkohle-Abbaugebiet Garzweiler (bei Köln)", and "Ein ganzes Dorf muss wegziehen ...". G. Engelhard & S. Jung (2006). - Solarbrief 1/06 of the Solarenergie-Förderverein Deutschland e.V., pp. 22-29. Astonishing photographs of the Garzweiler strip mine. These EXCELLENT newsletters, in the German language, can be downloaded from the website of the SFV:

SFV Special on lignite mining in the Nordrhein-Westfalen

"Bruinkool Duitsland - Lignite Germany". In: T. Anema & M. Szulc-Krzyzanowski (2000). World of Energy. De Verbeelding publishers, Amsterdam. - pp. 59-66. Including photographs of the monstrous machines, in huge lignite mines SW of East German's Weiswasser on the west rim of the Muskauer Heide near the border with Poland.

One of many photograps of the astonishing machinery used in strip mining pits:

Incredible photographs of the relocation of one of the bucket wheel excavators, having to cross a motorway in the process...:

Wikipedia page on the Frimmersdorf power plant and other energy-related items in the region:

See also link page to the "Straße der Energie" (Energy Road) running along the PV power plant of Frimmersdorf:

RWE leaflet on the "Straße der Energie", with description of the PV-plant (translation above; 209 kB):

RWE info on Frimmersdorf lignite power plant (net 2.136 MW; BKKW I):

RWE info on Neurath lignite power plant (net 2.083 MW; BKKW II):

"Dreckige Dreissig" (the "Thirty Filthiest") - According to World Wildlife Fund, the Frimmersdorf power plant is among the thirty filthiest in Europe, 5 of the top ten are located in Germany and 4 of those 5 are run by RWE in Nordrhein-Westfalen...:

Off course the lignite industry in Germany has its own, very successful lobbying branch organisation. From one of their documents:
"Die heimische Braunkohle ist ein volkswirtschaftlicher Positivfaktor." (Eng.: "The native [exploitation of] lignite is a positive incentive for the political economy"...:

Much more can be found, off course, using Google or other Web search engines, on this dubious "phenomenon" of human society.
Use key words like "lignite", "brown coal", Garzweiler, Aldenhoven, Jülicher Börde (or, to be at the safe side, Juelicher Boerde), "strip mining", etc.

Back to main Google Earth photopage (PV-projects)

© 2006 Peter J. Segaar/Polder PV subsite, Leiden (NL)
dit is een particuliere website; u kunt aan deze site geen rechten ontlenen
this is a private website; liability for correctness or use of information on this site cannot be accepted