Smart Solutions

Energy Self-sufficient Village

The use of waste materials and their transformation into biogas as a renewable energy source, from which all the electricity and the heating needs of the village are generated.

Implemented inKněžice

Country :

What’s the solution?

The project of an energetically self-sufficient village is based on the utilisation of waste materials and their transformation into biogas as a renewable energy source, from which electricity and heat are subsequently generated for the local consumption of the inhabitants of the village within one energetically closed circuit.

More specifically, this is achieved by setting up a biogas station with a cogeneration unit. This includes a homogenisation and fermentation station, a central boiler room, a heating station for burning straw and wood waste generated within the village and  a transfer station and hot water distribution system throughout the village.

When biogas and other waste materials collected in the village are burned in the unit, the supply of high-temperature heat drives a turbine-powered generator which produces electricity. At the same time, the ‘waste’ heat from this process is used to heat water. This ‘cogeneration’ enables a more efficient exploitation of the input materials.

The electricity is provided into the local grid to meet local needs. Meanwhile, the heated water is distributed via insulated pipes through transfer stations to almost all houses in the village for heating rooms and utility water heating.

In this way, the system meets all the energy needs of the village year round in terms of both electricity supply and heating.

What makes it smart?

The solution is smart because

  • The ecological benefits consist in the saving of fossil fuels and the reduction of harmful emissions both directly in the village from the use of individual boilers and in the reduction in demand in the village for electricity produced in Czech coal-fired power plants. This project saves 3 153 tons of coal annually, i.e. 2 000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
  • Utilization and profitability from biodegradable waste produced by the surrounding agricultural and food production and the local community
  • A significant contribution to improving the quality of life and to the economic revival of the village
  • Increasing self-sufficiency and independence from energy suppliers
  • Advantageous supply of residential houses and industrial buildings with heat
  • Restoration of efficient farming in the countryside
  • New job opportunities
  • Long-term guaranteed stable income (sales of electricity to the grid annually up to 2 200 MWh, i.e. annual income for the municipality of 245 000 EUR)
  • Independence of products and their market prices
  • Saving of fertilizers for plants and their higher efficiency

How is the solution implemented?

  • Develop an initial project idea and ensure the interest and engagement of citizens
  • Develop the project idea in consultation with local officials, experts and residents to adapt to local needs.
  • Conduct both a feasibility study and an energy audit
  • Identify and apply for major investment funding
  • Secure the commitments from local customers
  • Obtain the subsidies and find the sources for the remaining funding of the project
  • Choose a supplier and manage the installation of the required infrastructure
  • Pilot the operation before launching full-scale operation

In what local context has it been applied?

Kněžice is a small village located in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, about 67 kilometres east of Prague and 22 kilometres from the nearest major town of Nymburk. Due to the small size of the village, there are relatively few economic opportunities – most of the working age inhabitants commute to work in larger towns and cities.

The village lacks an effective municipal wastewater and sewage treatment system.  The village also has two local outlying parts, which means that building a sewage system would not be economically efficient.

Nevertheless, the village has an ambitious mayor and local council who have sought to improve the living conditions of its citizens through improved amenities. Problems were identified as occurring in several spheres of everyday life, including: significantly deteriorated air quality during the winter months due to the use of individual boilers; the lack of an effective sewage system; and surpluses of biodegradable waste.

Through improving civic amenities, Kněžice Municipal Council has sought to bring benefits to local citizens that make living in the village worthwhile. Different initiatives have included projects to build social housing, restore old buildings, purchase machinery for collective use and install waste management infrastructure.

Who was behind the implementation?

  • The original idea was initiated by the Mayor, Milan Kazda, and discussed and developed with the Deputy Mayor and the other representatives of the Municipal Council of Kněžice.
  • Local people including farmers and employees of the Municipal Office took on important roles in the implementation.

What was the local journey?

Initial idea and consultation (2000-2004)

  • Initially, the mayor developed the idea of constructing a boiler room to generate heat from waste organic materials produced in the village to feed a local heating system.
  • Through discussions with the other members of the Municipal Council of Kněžice, they gradually developed this idea and launched consultations and exchanges to ensure the interest and engagement of citizens.
  • They started to inform citizens about the ideas during regular Municipal Council Meetings.
  • The Municipal Office sent out information & questionnaires. Also, an intern/student communicated with the citizens by phone and informed them about the project.
  • The idea to create an energy self-sufficient village – involving a cogeneration plant and heating system - emerged.
  • Some citizens did not show interest in getting involved in a local heating system, so members of the Municipal Council visited them personally and informed them about the project. This managed to convince about 40 citizens to participate.

Planning the intervention (2000-2004)

  • The Mayor of the village and an official specialised in energy led the work to develop the technical specifications and budget requirements for the project to build the planned infrastructure for the entire closed loop system.
  • They contracted experts to conduct both a feasibility study and an energy audit, which was funded by LEADER.
  • They also searched for appropriate funding sources to finance the project and submitted an application for subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund.
  • The municipality concluded contracts with local residents to ensure sufficient demand for the energy to be produced and the overall financial viability of the project.
  • The project was also preceded by a change in the territorial plan of the municipality – information was always published in accordance with the law and people were informed about every change.
  • Bureaucracy in the Czech Republic was a challenge – the preparation of the project took 3 years, and during that time two companies that were supposed to participate in the project went bankrupt.

Construction (2005-2006)

  • With the EU funding secured, the supplier was selected.
  • Then the construction work began to install the complete closed loop energy system. This included: a cogeneration unit; storage tanks; a homogenisation and fermentation station; sludge tanks; a central boiler room; transfer station and hot water distribution system throughout the village.

Operation (2006+)

  • Once the system was completed, it was operated on a trial basis for more than six months before full operation was launched.
  • Full operation has seen the collection and supply of waste materials into the cogeneration plant and the supply of electricity and heat to the local community.
  • Farmers have also been engaged to supply fuel to the boiler room (intentionally cultivated specific plants – e.g. sorrel).

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • The biogas station provides not only an effective treatment process for waste water and sewage in the whole village, but also generates important quantities of useful biogas)
  • It also substitutes a composting plant, as it also utilizes all biological waste, e.g. grass clippings from municipal areas (approx. 5 ha), raked leaves, waste from households, canteens, etc.
  • Utilisation of manure without odour burden
  • Production of thermal and electrical energy with advantageous supply of heat for residential houses and industrial buildings - strengthening self-sufficiency and independence from energy suppliers, decentralisation and local energy production
  • Significant reduction in the use of highly polluting individual household boilers in the village.
  • The project has had a fundamental impact on the air quality in the village. It saves over ten thousand tons of CO2 emissions per year, thereby significantly reducing greenhouse gases
  • Restoration of efficient farming in the countryside
  • New job opportunities
  • An additional and guaranteed source of income for the village (from the sale of electricity and from the utilization of external waste)
  • Utilization and profit of waste from the food industry
  • Utilization of residues after biogas production as fertilizer for agriculture
  • It won the European Energy Efficiency Award (EEA), October 2007
  • However, despite the relatively high purchase price of electricity from the biogas station, the simple return on investment is about 28 years. From such a long period of simple return on the investment, it follows that the implementation of such an investment without a subsidy is not yet possible.

What does it bring the village/community?

The solution contributes significantly to making the village a more attractive place to live through:

  • Improvement of the environment, significant reduction of pollution and long-term air pollution
  • Stable supply of energy to citizens, significantly lower energy prices
  • Increase of trust in and support for the management of the village
  • Prestige and visibility of the village at EU level
  • Reduction of waste
  • Strengthening the togetherness of the local community

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:

Set up / Investment costs: approx. EUR 5.63 mil

The main costs were the costs of purchasing and installing the necessary infrastructure.

Additional costs include:

- Approx. 12 250 EUR for the feasibility study

- Approx. 4 000 EUR for the energy audit

Ongoing costs: annual ongoing costs are around EUR 213,000.

• ~82 000 EUR per year in labour costs for servicing the boiler room and biogas station.

• ~49 000 EUR per year for service and operating materials for the biogas station, the cogeneration unit and the boiler room.

• ~41 000 EUR per year for fuel for the boilers from local suppliers

• ~41 000 EUR per year for purposefully grown biomass for the biogas station

However, these costs are more than covered by the money generated from the sale of energy. The municipality receives approx. 262 000 EUR per year for electricity and approx. 123 000 EUR per year for the heat supplied to customers in the village.

Financial needs:
Funding received:
European Regional Development Fund3,470,000 €Co-funding for installation of the closed loop energy system and heating infrastructure
The State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic410,000 €Co-funding for installation of the closed loop energy system and heating infrastrucure
Own resources of the village (public order for the commercial loan with an annual budget of the village of approx. 245 000 EUR)1,760,000 €Co-funding for installation of the closed loop energy system and heating infrastructure
LEADER4,000 €The energy audit

Human resources

- Designers of technical solutions

- Project manager

- Boiler room and biogas station employee

Physical resources

- Cogeneration unit

- Storage tanks

- Homogenization and fermentation station

- Sludge tanks

- Central boiler room

- Hot water distribution systems throughout the village

- Transfer station

What to do…

  • Don't give up. Even in the face of bureaucratic delays and technical problems.
  • Ensure citizens' interest and their commitment through contracts
  • Involvement of citizens in the ownership of the company

and not to do

  • Do not be afraid of big goals
  • Not only one person should be responsible for the project – create a team

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