Ruhr Energy Lab: Role model for energetic restructuring

The resource-saving and energy-efficient modification of residential areas poses countless challenges. In conurbations such as the Ruhr area, particularly, one of these is getting towns and cities working together. Through the Ruhr Energy Lab project, Gelsenkirchen and Herten show in an exemplary manner how the climate-adapted development of a district can be jointly implemented and how the shift from old energy generation methods to new energies and the renovation of buildings can be used as an engine for city development.

The district surrounding the former Westerholt mine comprises a mining area measuring about 30 hectares right on the Gelsenkirchen/Herten border, an equally large coking plant in Gelsenkirchen-Hassel, a dormant coal railway line and the adjacent garden city with its miners’ housing estates. The project aims at renovating an area which is significant from an urban development, industrial and building history viewpoint and to supply it with energy using climate-friendly means – despite low purchasing power. “This integrated city development is an innovative joint project and boosts quality of life beyond the borders of towns, cities and urban districts; it has been enabled through funding by the federal state, the Federal Government and the EU,” says Dr Nieder, head of the Klimabündnis Gelsenkirchen-Herten e.V. (Gelsenkirchen-Herten climate alliance).  

Engine for progress:

  • Innovative local heating instead of coal furnaces
  • Energy-efficiency upgrades of historic building structures
  • Climate protection-oriented funding programme for private households
  • Reductions in CO2 emissions of 1,300 tonnes and a renovation quota of 5% per year achieved

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Photo: Klimabündnis Gelsenkirchen-Herten e.V.

The historic gate houses are an important point of identification for the district. Ruhr Energy Lab Infocentre is being built in this central location to provide impetus in energy matters.

Self-developed funding guideline following the principle of €50 per kg of CO2 emissions reduced

To encourage private home-owners to carry out building and energy-efficiency upgrades, a funding guideline with attractive funding rates was established in order to meet the low purchasing power in the district. The funding programme is flanked by a comprehensive consultancy offering of the municipalities; a very attractive catalogue of possibilities will support residents in making decisions in the future. With the help of the consultancy provided, 130 applications have already been granted permission and the corresponding measures carried out – resulting in an annual reduction in CO2 emissions of 1,300 tonnes. The renovation measures are carried out with due consideration for the historical character of the houses and the entire residential area, so that the heritage as regards building history is kept intact.

A local heating concept appropriate to the district

Part of the garden city had no mains-connected energy supply and is being connected to a local heating network emanating from the mining area, which is currently supplied through mine gas and may potentially also be supplied by solar thermal energy. In 60 larger mining buildings, the old coal furnaces had fallen into disuse. The heat supply is now provided by low temperature local heating (LowEx) produced by a mine gas-fired cogeneration plant. CO2 emissions are thereby reduced by over 500 tonnes per year – air quality is also improved as a knock-on effect.

The emerging residential areas and business parks in the New Mine Westerholt will receive an economically and environmentally sensible energy supply. Other technical measures for energy generation and storage such as the installation of a heater which utilises wind power surpluses, a large-scale solar thermal facility and a heat storage unit are in planning and should be implemented at a later stage.

Ruhr Energy Lab Infocentre as point of contact

Moreover, the project team is creating showpieces with a strong presence through its own construction projects. Both historical gate houses of the mine are currently being renovated and will act as the central point of the whole development project. They are an important point of identification and orientation in the district and serve as a junction between the garden city and the development of the New Mine Westerholt. The Ruhr Energy Lab Infocentre will be constructed here in the near future – a location for expertise and networking which will be an important source of impetus in the district. Here, comprehensive, practical information, concrete assistance and support on the topics of energy-efficiency upgrade of buildings and cities and energy storage possibilities will be on offer for the 34,000 inhabitants of the surrounding urban districts. The former coal railway line “Allee des Wandels” (transition alley) is a learning centre focusing on new energies from small wind turbines and solar roads to short rotational forestry, it connects the district with the cycle path network of the Ruhr area and that of the Münster region.

Photo: Christian Kuck

Partners and sponsors

  • Stadt Gelsenkirchen
  • Stadt Herten
  • Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit (BmUB)