PRATO-ALLO-STELVIO (IT): 100% RES community

PRATO-ALLO-STELVIO (IT): 100% RES community
Published by Katiuscia Eroe on 29/06/2010

Italy triumphs among European small towns thanks to Prato allo Stelvio, winner of the RES Champions League 2010, the competition between European cities and towns based on renewable energies. The City Council was awarded his price during the 6th European conference of sustainable cities and towns that took place on the 19th of May in Dunkirk (France).

This town of 3200 inhabitants distinguishes itself not only thanks to the mix of renewable energies, made of 6 different technologies, but also thanks to the local distribution network run by a local cooperative that makes Prato allo Stelvio, due to historical reasons, an almost autonomous municipality in terms of energy production and distribution.

The development of the grid started after the First World War, when the community of Prato allo Stelvio was going through a severe economic crisis and at the same time was forced to pay very high costs for the electricity coming from the nearby communities. Thanks to the determination and courage of a few men, Alois Karner, Alois Primisser, Johann Prugger, Anton Wallnöfer, Johann Wallnöfer and Alois Wunderer, the Power Cooperative E-Weerk was established in 1926 and the first hydroelectric power plant was built, partly funded by the inhabitants (through the purchase of shares) and partly financed by loans.

Already in 1927 the cooperative was distributing about 35 MWh of energy, figure that increased to 350 MWh in 1951, when the cooperative members were 81 and the customers 381 (approximately 600 in 1975).

 Today, an amount of energy, which is higher than real needs of the local residents in terms of electrical and thermal (heating and hot water) requirements, is supplied by:

  • two biomass heating plants for a total power of 1,4 MW supplying 75% of buildings through a  21 km long network;
  • a biogas production unit (600.000 cubic meters a year) from manure and liquid manure and other organic waste. 50 farmers supply the unit.
  • five cogeneration units (total 1,4 MW) supplied exclusively with biogas or hybrid biogas/biomass fuel produce more than 3 GWh a year;
  • four hydroelectric plants for a total of 3,6 MW;
  • hundreds of solar systems installed on the roofs (1,100 square meters of solar thermal collectors and 3 MW photovoltaic panels - with more than 50 installations);
  • two wind turbines for respective power 1,2 and 1,5 MW.

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The "lucky" residents of this small town benefit from these technologies on at least two sides: they preserve the clean air of this mountain region and they get less expensive bills of approximately 30-40%.

Due to the growing demand for energy, the network was progressively developped as the production of energy from renewable sources increased. Therefore, Prato allo Stelvio now gets a network that can efficiently manage the various renewable sources so much so that in 2003 it prevented the small towns from the Province of Bolzano from being affected by the nation-wide black out. The system, indeed, ensured the continuous energy supply to all the users.

Today the cooperative has over 900 members and, apart from providing energy to over 90% of the community users, inject the surplus into the network.