Thies Schröder, Germany | Environment | All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 06.10.2015

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Thies Schröder, Germany

What does it take to turn a former coal mine into a green festival haven?

There are few places in the world where you can party next to huge steel excavators on top of an old coal-pit. But in the iron city of Ferropolis you can dance the night away in a setting with almost 100 years of industrial heritage. Once a location synonymous with industrial power and environmental disaster, Ferropolis is now a festival haven.

But how did this all happen? Coal mining has a long tradition in Germany. For decades, Gräfenhainichen in the German state of Saxon-Anhalt was a brown coal mining area. In the 1960s, the site became the center of the brown coal open mine "Golpa-Nord." Until the 1990s, 100 million tons of emissions-heavy soft coal were extracted at the "Golpa-Nord" mine each year. But when the mining operation stopped, the land was transformed into an open air museum and a festival area. This green festival area, called Ferropolis, is now a major attraction.

Ferropolis hosts Germany's largest hip hop festival "Splash!" as well as electronic and indie music festival "Melt!"

Thies Schröder, the CEO of Ferropolis, has devised a strategy to make the festivals as environmentally friendly as possible. Up to 70 percent of the energy used at the festivals here comes directly from solar. The up to 25,000 festival guests are encouraged to arrive by train rather than car. And a "green campsite," plus vegan and regional food, are helping pave the way to a greener festival future.

Thies says turning a former coal mining area into a modern, creative and green festival area is a great way of dealing with Germany's industrial history in a positive way. " It proves that we have moved on from a fossil past, and are more environmentally aware now."

Five giant excavators tower over the festival stages like dinosaurs from a past era. The festival-goers love the scenery - they tell us it's the location that makes the festival so special.

Thies not only makes the festivals green. He is also the head of a new group called the "Energieavantgarde" (energy avant-garde), which is currently trying to revolutionize the energy supply for the entire Dessau-Rosslau region, with its 400,000 inhabitants.

Their goal: to create renewables-based, decentralized and climate-friendly energy infrastructure. Quite a task! But with Ferropolis, they are off to a strong start.

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