Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Germany Provides Inspiration, Potential Market for Wash. Clean Tech Companies

Flickr via Compfight
Solar panels on the roofs of houses in the Bavarian village of Eitting near Munich, Germany.

A delegation from Germany recently paid Washington’s clean tech lobby a visit. At a meeting in Seattle, the delegation, whose country's emphasis on renewable energy has made it a global leader in the sector, presented some of the lessons local companies are learning from the German example.

The delegation toured the West Coast of the U.S. to tout Germany’s strengths as a clean tech partner. More than a quarter of its electricity comes from solar and wind power. The team's message is that a strong policy framework is crucial to the growth of the sector.

Delegate Florian Lennert says getting to 100 percent renewables is now almost a national mission in his country. And he says the word for it has become a household term in Germany.

“Exactly. The Energiewende — a typical long big German word,” Lennert said. 

The word means energy turnaround. And it’s a word Mukilteo-based Russ Weed is proud to show he has learned, too.

“The Energiewende!” Weed said when asked why his company is interested in Germany. He's with UniEnergyTechnologies, which makes large-scale vanadium flow batteries. They’re as big as shipping containers and can store megawatts of power that might otherwise go to waste. 

“Because of the intermittency of wind and solar, it’s a real headache, frankly, for grids to manage," Weed said, "having to instantaneously, literally in seconds or less, balance supply and demand."

UniEnergy is key to a project that has just won millions of dollars in matching grants from the Department of Commerce. Avista and Snohomish County PUD are testing the batteries along against other storage technologies to see which will be the best solution. And UniEnergy has just set up a German subsidiary with a big contract to service a wind farm in Denmark.

Germany’s hope is to find more U.S. partners, and the delegtion says there are many strong contenders in Washington state.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to