Brandenburg's Economy Minister debunks myths about Gigafactory Berlin during 2-hour Q&A

Brandenburg's Economy Minister debunks myths about Gigafactory Berlin during 2-hour Q&A

During a public Q&A session on Friday, 300 participants had the opportunity to pose whatever questions they had about the new Tesla Gigafactory Berlin to Brandenburg's Economy Minister, Jörg Steinbach.

Source: DPA

By 2021, the first cars – starting with Model Y – are bound to emerge from the roughly 2400-foot-long, 1000-foot-wide, two-story building. When up and running, the plant will produce vehicles, powertrains and batteries for the European market. 

While the German government and local authorities have been very supportive of the company's decision to build the fourth Gigafactory in Grünheide, Brandenburg, a small group of protesters took it to the streets to protest the construction.

The amount of trees that will need to be cleared, uncertainty regarding the area's water supply and changes in infrastructure Grünheide will be confronted with (since the massive project is expected to create up to 10,000 jobs) were some of the main concerns. 

Most of the planned demonstrations have now come to an end, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently addressed these concerns in a series of tweets:

Here's a summary of the six most important myths / questions Jörg Steinbach addressed in the meeting on Friday.

1. Why is Tesla allowed to build Giga Berlin in Grünheide?

Every company is allowed to move into the Freienbrink industrial estate –– if it meets the environmental requirements. Steinbach: "Brandenburg has proposed four locations to Tesla. [...] In addition, BMW planned to build a new plant in Grünheide at the beginning of the century –– before the company chose Saxony instead. However, many permits are still valid, which is a huge advantage in accelerating construction."

2. Why did most of the negotiations happen behind closed doors?

Steinbach: "Secret negotiations are normal. You won't know who's buying your neighbor's house until afterwards. Brandenburg spoke with Tesla's European headquarters in Holland. Now that the contract has been approved and signed by both parties, the newly founded subsidiary Tesla Manufacturing SE will also be headquartered in Grünheide." 

 3. What about subsidies?

Brussels is providing a maximum of €72.5 million for the first expansion phase (€1 billion) –– if Tesla meets all conditions, including a minimum of 3000 new jobs and a land price not below market value. In the final expansion phase (€4 billion), Tesla would be entitled to €280 million.

4. What about the forest?

The area has been industrial building land for decades, with "harvestable pine forest of the lowest quality". Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirms, "The trees were planted for boxes" and adds, "For every tree that needs to be cut down, Tesla will plant three new trees elsewhere in Brandenburg."

5. What about the water supply and Tesla's water consumption?

"Groundwater should be sufficient for the start-up phase. Experts will identify additional water sources to supply larger quantities if needed, which should not be an issue. Munich gets its water from a facility 80 kilometers away.", Steinbach explains. Plus, by utilizing waste water and using different cooling systems, Tesla was able to reduce its expected water consumption from 372 cubic meters/hour to 238 cubic meters/hour. Also, Elon Musk tweeted:

"Tesla won't use this much net water on a daily basis. It’s possibly a rare peak usage case, but not an everyday event."

 6. What about public transport?

Initially, trains will stop at Fangschleuse station more frequently –– and run every 15 minutes instead of just once per hour. However, talks with Deutsche Bahn, Germany's biggest railway company, are already underway. Steinbach says, "If Tesla is expanding its facility, we're also able to build a second Autobahn exit and additional roads."

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Vivien Hantusch

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