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Kirchweidach: a model – tomatoes for Bavaria

The Austrian gardening entrepreneur Josef Steiner shows that the energy generated by the geothermal facility in Kirchweidach will not solely be used in the future to provide the surrounding community with remote heating and produce electricity for 5-8 communities. With a tomato greenhouse of around 115,000 square metres, from 2014 onwards six million kilograms of vine tomatoes or 3.5 million kilograms of cocktail tomatoes will be produced – heated all year round by geothermal energy.

For the production of tomatoes in modern greenhouses a constant temperature of 18–20°C is required. When the sun is not sufficient, heating is generally carried out with natural gas or petroleum oil. In a greenhouse of 12 hectares, like the one which is now being built in Kirchweidach, 4.2 million litres of heating oil would be required, corresponding to the consumption of 2000 detached houses.

Thanks to the geothermal facility in Kirchweidach, Josef Steiner’s vegetable growing company now has the opportunity, instead of using petroleum oil or natural gas, to use the waste heat present in the power plant with the help of heat pumps. An additional heat provider for the greenhouse is the return flow of the cooled thermal water which flows back from the remote heating network of the community Kirchweidach for reinjection. The connection of a neighbouring biogas plant and the installation of a photovoltaic installation for the company’s own electricity complete the energy supply. Via a large hot water storage tank, peaks in heat and short-term interruptions of heat supply can be compensated for.

With this intelligent energy management, the greenhouse in the Chiemgau region is supplied with energy in a way which is not only CO2-neutral, but CO2-free. In this way, around 8.4 million kg CO2 are saved. This is absolutely unique in the German vegetable-growing industry, and is an outstanding model project for sustainability and ecological heat use for the whole of Europe. 

As less than eight percent of fresh tomatoes in Bavaria are self-supplied, the entire harvest from Kirchweidach is marketed regionally through the main brand REWE Markt GmbH. The short transport routes mean that the tomatoes are not only harvested when they are wholly ripe and so taste considerably better, but also that each year, compared with imports from Spain, around 1.1 million kilometres of lorry driving are saved, which is three times the distance from the earth to the moon.  


REWE regional


“Everyone speaks about the energy revolution – we do it!” says Franz Obermayer, head of the remote heating committee of the community Kirchweidach (Chiemgau) online. Ingrid Heckner, a member of the German Parliament (CSU party), adds that it is “a project which is unique in Germany”. She notes that it is certainly possible to speak of a Kirchweidach model, one which hopefully will set an example. She revealed herself to be an enthusiastic tomato eater: “I myself am a tomato fan, and I am happy when I can eat tomatoes from home.”


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