On Saturday, 22 January 2022, four operators of district heating systems in the Oberland opened their doors. Interested imitators were able to ask questions about planning, construction and operation and received practical tips. The action took place in cooperation between deputy regional farmer Christine Singer from Hofheim and the EU-funded heating exchange project REPLACE of Energiewende Oberland.
In Antdorf, Johann Schweyer Sr. has already cleared the snow on the way to the heating house. Inside you can see the district heating system, which has been reliably supplying heat to four houses with a total of twelve households since 2009. What motivated them to build it? How do the operators monitor their systems? And what tips do they have for imitators? In addition to the Schweyer family, operators from Habach (Strobl and Kennerknecht families), Leibersberg (Georg Miller) and Hofheim (Singer family) took part in the campaign and answered questions.
All four district heating families have farms and at the same time act as heat suppliers for the neighbouring houses. As Josef Schweyer jun. from Antdorf reports, they can thus bring in their own wood for the woodchip heating system and thus also generate added value for their own farm. The reason for building the system in Antdorf was the planning of further buildings in the same street and thus the idea of a joint heat supply. In the case of the Singer family in Hofheim, it was the thought of ageing and the desire to use a simpler heating technology than logs. In conversation with the neighbours, the district heating system for all came about by chance. And for Markus Kennerknecht from Habach, the advantage of a communal heating system is clear: “With a district heating system, people don’t need to buy oil or pellets, and the smell of oil in the cellar is gone.”
The newest member of the district heating association is Georg Miller. A long-time fuel supplier with Bäuerliche Hackschnitzel Liefergesellschaft, his own district heating system went into operation in September 2021 after only five months of construction and now supplies the hamlet of Leibersberg. The technical sophistication of his system is the push floor, which allows the woodchips to enter the stove via a moving floor, making ideal use of the elongated storage space.
In their recommendations for imitators, the experienced operators agree: a good planning office is important, which can guide through the project from the appropriate size of the boilers to the route planning. And of course, capable heating engineers are needed to implement the project successfully. For information on subsidies, Energiewende Oberland is always up to date and can thus create optimal framework conditions for operators. When it comes to pricing, it is also a good idea to involve a neutral partner such as the EWO, so that the envy factor does not come into play in the first place.
Whether they would build their district heating system a second time, all operators answered with a clear yes. Or, as Josef Schweyer from Antdorf says, “A district heating system is not witchcraft. It runs well with the farming business and can be recommended for others with a similar challenge”.