German WWII Bunker To Generate Renewable Energy

For 70 years, the gray hulk of the Wilhelmsburg flak bunker has stood in Hamburg, Germany, as an unofficial memorial to the terrible days of World War II. In 1947, the occupying British Army tried to demolish it, but could barely manage to dent the massive 10-foot-thick concrete walls and 13-foot-thick roof that had already withstood two years of Allied bombardment.

After the 130-foot-tall, fortress-like structure sat idle on Neuhöfer Strasse for more than six decades, the city of Hamburg decided to make positive use of the sturdy structure by converting into a renewable energy plant, using photovoltaic and thermal solar energy, biogas, wood chips and waste heat from an adjacent manufacturing plant.

The conversion of a German former WWII bunker into a renewable energy facility is nearly complete. Image via IBA Hamburg.

The conversion of a German former WWII bunker into a renewable energy facility is nearly complete. Image via IBA Hamburg GmbH.

Upon completion by around 2015, the new Energiebunker is expected to generate 22,500 megawatt-hours of heat and nearly 3,000 megawatt hours of electricity, or enough to provide heat and hot water for 3,000 households each year and meet the electricity needs of 1,000 households. The adaptive reuse project, part of an overall “Renewable Wilhelmsburg” initiative to address climate change, will also reduce CO2 emissions by 95 percent, compared to a conventional coal-burning power station.

Solar thermal arrays have been installed on the roof. Image via IBA Hamburg.

Solar thermal arrays have been installed on the roof. Image via IBA Hamburg GmbH.

The outer skin and south-facing wall of the bunker is now covered with more than 37,600 square feet of thermal solar panels that will be used to heat up water to be stored in a 528,000-gallon buffer.  The buffer function, according to IBA Hamburg, allows the plant to reduce the amount of supplementary power generation from the biomethane-fired combined heat and power plant, the wood-chip-burning plant and heat from the factory next door. Savings, they say, will amount to 4.5 megawatts less capacity to supply enough heat for its customers.

Artist's conception of how the renovated amenity areas might look once completed. Image via IBA Hamburg.

Artist’s conception of how the renovated amenity areas might look once completed. Image via IBA Hamburg GmbH.

The 70,600-cubic-foot outer shell, which was large enough to shelter 30,000 residents during WWII air raids, will also be used for tourist activity, including a café and open-air terrace up around the 100-foot level, providing sweeping views of the Port of Hamburg. In addition, the walls and roof will be restored and strengthened to serve as a monument to the bunker’s original purpose. At the top of the structure’s former flak towers, a historical interpretive center is being planned to document its historical significance.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Lester/100001046509730 Alex Lester

    Very good use of an existing building, but I bet the energy is quite expensive.