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Living Green

First solar-powered restaurant in Germany celebrates 25th anniversary

A solar-powered restaurant on a hilltop is the perfect place to relax and get a taste of traditional German cuisine. The Rappenecker Hutte marks its 25th year as Europe's first solar-powered restaurant.

Located at the southern corner of the Black Forest, the restaurant doesn't just accommodate guests but also helps researchers to learn about clean and renewable technologies.

The restaurant has been generating its own electricity using a photovoltaic system and a small wind turbine, after it was outfitted by solar research institute Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems.

Serving as hikers' inn for several years, about 65 percent of its 400-kilowatt hour energy needs are supplied by solar PV, with another 10 percent coming from wind and 25 percent coming from a fuel cell.

Due to heavy snow during winter season, the restaurant only opens for six months from April to September, when about 500 guests per week come to visit.

It has become a test bed for a demonstration project aimed at replacing diesel generators with fuel cells, which are twice as much reliable in generating electricity.

Dubbed as "a pioneering technology of the future," the fuel cell technology controls and converts hydrogen and oxygen into energy with great electrical efficiency. However, Fraunhofer Institute said this technology remains "young," since the methods and components for its development were just discovered in recent years.

Meanwhile, diesel generators entail high maintenance costs and contribute to global warming by emitting carbon and other harmful gases during the combustion process. It is only 15 percent efficient unlike the 55 percent capacity of fuel cells.

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