The construction preparations for the planned European Gigafactory of Tesla in Brandenburg have begun. The clearing of a 91-hectare pine forest began on Thursday evening. Brandenburg’s Minister of Economics Jörg Steinbach announced the launch via Twitter.
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“It’s starting. Construction preparations have begun. A historical photo from a few minutes ago”, the SPD politician twittered early Thursday evening, along with a photo showing heavy equipment in the pine forest. The current clearing start is necessary to ensure Tesla’s ambitious schedule. As is well known, the Californians want to start production in Grünheide as early as summer 2021.
Tesla has now started the clearing work at his own risk. Although the State Office for the Environment has granted permission for early clearing and has also approved preparatory construction measures for the electric car manufacturer (such as the construction of construction roads), final approval is still pending. In practice, this means that Tesla is allowed to start, but must reckon with a shutdown of activities if the worst comes to the worst.
As reported yesterday, the Americans have in the meantime announced an environmental protection package as compensation and in response to demands by conservationists. Tesla wants to replace the trees cut down and reforest three times as many trees elsewhere. The company has also announced plans to hang up nesting boxes, relocate forest ant colonies and reptiles and install protective fences, among other things. The question of water supply has also been clarified – at least in the first stage of expansion.
— Jörg Steinbach (@joergstb) February 13, 2020
And there is also an update on another topic related to the Brandenburger Gigafactory. After published job offers from Tesla recently hinted that Tesla wants to produce their own battery cells in Europe in the future, the plans are now also confirmed by the Federal Minister of Economics, Peter Altmaier: At a press conference in Berlin, the CDU politician said that Tesla boss Elon Musk had promised him that he also wanted to produce battery cells in the Gigafactory 4 in Grünheide “in the future”. The Californians most likely have similar plans for their plant in Fremont. Tesla’s first pilot production line for its own battery cells could be built there. This is also indicated by concrete job advertisements by the company.
With reporting by Cora Werwitzke, France
Update Monday 17 February 2020:
Berlin-Brandenburg’s Higher Administrative Court (OVG) put a stop to the quickly-progressing clearing work on Saturday evening (where about 40 hectares have already been felled) – at the request of the Grüne Liga Brandenburg, a community-based environmental organisation. In particular, the organisation criticises the fact that the State Office for the Environment has given permission for the clearing ahead of schedule, although the building permit for the factory has not yet been approved. They said the clearing had begun so fast it was like a raid, and that the effects of this “gigantic project” on humans and nature have not yet been thoroughly and conclusively examined. Grüne Liga insists that the high water consumption in an already dry area is questionable.
In order to consider the appeal, an immediate stop of felling work was ordered since this work would have been finished within just three more days of work. The stop will remain in effect until a decision has been made on the organisation’s appeal. Brandenburg’s Minister of Economics, Jörg Steinbach, said on Twitter that the State Environmental Agency and Tesla would be allowed to comment until Tuesday noon. “This will be done as a matter of course. We will then rely on a timely decision by #OVG”, Steinbach continued. Should this be in favour of Tesla, the clearing will move forward, probably in the same rapid manner as this drone flight over the forest illustrates:
rbb24.de (in German)
with reporting by Carrie Hampel, Germany
Update 21.02.2020: On Thursday evening, Berlin & Brandenburg’s Higher Administrative Court dismissed the urgent applications of the Green initiative from Brandenburg and the VLAB. The clearing of the Grünheide forest may now continue. The decision is not contestable, so Tesla can finish the work in February – and thus before the beginning of the Spring vegetation period.
The reason given by the OVG was that the legal requirements for the early commencement of the work had rightly been affirmed. The competent authority had the necessary knowledge to assess whether the project was likely to be approved – and therefore did not have to wait for the expiry of the objection period in March.
with reporting by Chris Randall, Germany
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