For more than 20 years, a special company with a special mission has been operating in the Lake Constance region: the citizens' enterprise Solarcomplex, based in the district of Constance, aims to convert the area between the Rhine and the Danube to use renewable energy by 2030. A daunting task that has already made good progress in recent years and has been given additional momentum by recent international events. Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen has supported Solarcomplex from the very beginning. Two current examples show how sustainable projects become reality.
6,480 panels on around 28,000 square metres of agricultural land firstly represents a high-yield open-space photovoltaic plant instead of low-yield grassland. But the Berghof Tengen solar park in the Constance district of Baden-Württemberg is about much more: another large-scale Solarcomplex project with 3.7 megawatts of power as a contribution to the energy transition, the implementation of new marketing concepts for the approximately 4 million kilowatt hours of solar power generated annually, a special investment and, last but not least, a testament to the successful cooperation between Solarcomplex and Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen.
But let's start from the beginning: The special concept ground-mounted photovoltaic plant, built and operated by Solarcomplex with the help of Savings Bank financing, has been on the grid since June 2022. This concept includes the fact that the solar power generated is not marketed via the Renewable Energy Sources Act, but directly benefits a large industrial company, namely Rolls-Royce Power Systems in Friedrichshafen. Additionally, the park features a special participation: The landowner is not only the lessor of the land, but has invested in the project himself and operates a third of it. Another special feature is that the park investors voluntarily pay a so-called municipal levy of 0.2 cents/kWh to the neighbouring town of Tengen. At 4 million kWh, this amounts to around EUR 8,000 a year. A further innovative feature is the orientation of the module tables to the east and west instead of to the south as in the past. This results in a more even generation throughout the day, which is helpful for direct marketing.
For Tengen, however, the large-scale photovoltaic plant is »just« another chapter in the subject of renewable energies. The small town with around 4,000 inhabitants has already been energy-sufficient for years. This has been achieved by photovoltaics on municipal buildings, two biogas plants and, since 2017, a wind farm, which meet the town's own energy needs many times over. These are good preconditions for the solar park, which was given the green light by the municipal council and could be realised within just one year thanks to a rapidly prepared development plan.
What Tengen has already achieved locally, Solarcomplex wants to implement as a »regenerative municipal utility« for the extended Lake Constance region by 2030. The civic enterprise, which currently employs a good 60 people, sees itself as a central force for the expansion of domestic renewable energies in the region. To this end, Solarcomplex plans, builds and operates appropriate plants for the provision of electricity and heat and offers capital investments as an ecological financial investment. Since its foundation in 2000, the number of shareholders has grown from 20 to almost 2,000 and the equity capital from EUR 37,500 to around EUR 35 million. In addition to regenerative heating networks in 18 municipalities, wind farms with around 15 MW and solar power plants as roof and ground-mounted systems with over 70 MW have been implemented. The investment volume of all projects is over EUR 250 million. Currently in the project pipeline are further wind farms with around 50 MW and solar plants with around 100 MW.
Capital increase in record time
Solarcomplex has operated as an unlisted public limited company since 2007. To finance its dynamic growth, which has received a further boost from recent international developments, the company issues shares at irregular intervals. At the beginning of 2023, a capital increase of three million shares with an equivalent value of around eight million euros was completed in a record time of only seven weeks.
Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen has served Solarcomplex as its principal bank since its foundation in 2000 and is involved in financing projects such as the solar park.
In addition to large-scale projects such as the Berghof solar park, Solarcomplex 2022 has also developed a model for the efficient supply of electricity to small and medium-sized enterprises and municipalities with »Solarstrom direkt«. Solarcomplex builds, finances and operates PV systems on third-party roofs and delivers the electricity directly to the building. Here, too, Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen supports the financing. »Solarstrom direkt« is particularly interesting for small and medium-sized enterprises and municipalities that want to use low-cost solar power without having to make their own investments. The model has proven to be a win-win situation for both sides: The roof owner receives long-term green electricity at a contractually agreed lower price than from the grid, Solarcomplex earns more than with the normal feed-in tariff.
This is how, for example, the company StandexMeder Electronics GmbH in Engen obtained its photovoltaic system in 2023. At no cost to the company, around 800 modules deliver a predicted annual yield of around 350,000 kWh. This will enable the company to cover more than half of its electricity needs from renewable sources. This is one of many small steps on the way to a largely renewable energy supply in the region by 2030, which Solarcomplex and Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen have taken together.
Three questions for …
Frank Lammering, Member of the Board Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen
Mr Lammering, how did the cooperation with Solarcomplex come about?
Solarcomplex was looking for a financing partner for its first project after it was founded in 2000, long before the term sustainability was considered a challenge for people. At the time, it was difficult to find a credit institution that financed photovoltaic systems. Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen was happy to accompany the financing. It involved two photovoltaic systems on two company roofs with a total output of 11.4 kWp, which cost around DM 90,000. So began a successful business relationship.
What are the particular challenges here, especially due to the border location with Switzerland?
Solarcomplex set itself the goal of concentrating on the southwest of Baden-Württemberg. The demand for renewable energies has become huge, especially with the war of aggression against Ukraine, and continues to grow enormously. For a long time now, companies like Solarcomplex have had to turn down orders because they lack the human resources to handle them.
Do you support other companies like Solarcomplex as customers who are actively promoting the energy transition?
Yes, in fact we were able to establish further business relationships through referrals from Solarcomplex and win very interesting investors for renewable energy projects and comparable companies like Solarcomplex.
Three questions for …
Bene Müller, Chairman of the Board of Solarcomplex
Mr Müller, you have been on the management board of Solarcomplex right from the start. What tipped the scales in favour of founding the company?
The motives of the founding partners were to phase out nuclear power, protect the climate and generate wealth in the region by using domestic rather than foreign energy. We were very idealistic and perhaps also ideological, and in some ways very naïve. But we have a steep learning curve behind us and are professionals today. That is the advantage for those who start early.
You want to convert the entire region to renewable energy supply by 2030. How far have you come from your point of view?
Not far enough. If we make a linear extrapolation of the development to date, we will fall far short of the target – for electricity, but even more so for heat. The expansion of domestic renewable energies is currently gathering enormous momentum. So much so that we can't even keep up with it in terms of personnel. But even if we continue this momentum, it will not be enough. So we have to add at least another five years.
How important is the cooperation with Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen in achieving the main goal?
We continue to be grateful to Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen today for supporting us in the start-up and founding phase. It does not go without saying, but it is vital to find an institution that sets up current accounts and overdraft facilities for you as an absolute start-up and extends regular loans. Since those early days, together with Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen, we have implemented a great many projects with an investment volume of tens of millions of euros. Over time, it was then necessary to expand the circle of financing banks, keyword: cluster risk. When I heard this for the first time in the annual meeting with the board of the Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen, I thought we had a medical problem. Joking aside: the cooperation is still very important to us today.
Short profile of Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen
Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen is an integral part of the Hegau region. It has 170 employees and ten branches in its business area between the Danube and the Rhine. With total assets of more than EUR 1.2 billion, it makes a significant contribution to economic life in the region, which is characterised by its proximity to Switzerland. For Sparkasse Engen-Gottmadingen, sustainable solutions are a question of attitude.
Short profile of Solarcomplex
The civic enterprise Solarcomplex specialises in the planning, construction and operation of plants for the generation of electricity and heat from renewable energies. The focus is on large-scale PV plants (rooftop and ground-mounted), regenerative heat grids and wind power plants. As an ecological investment, Solarcomplex offers equity investments in these plants.