From the very first solar plant

Our story

Ove Petersen and Heinrich Gärtner decide to draw on their initial entrepreneurial experience by establishing GP JOULE for the planning and implementation of free-standing PV systems. Their enthusiasm for renewable energies, their creativity and their entrepreneurial spirit are channelled into the new company as they commit themselves fully to the energy revolution and climate protection. The first business plan is drawn up on a paper sausage plate that has since become legendary.


The decision of the then Federal Government to extend the service lives of nuclear power plants may have been annoying and incomprehensible, but its impact on Gärtner and Petersen is to increase their motivation in striving to achieve their goal of 100 per cent renewable energy. Many share this enthusiasm and are keen to follow suit: GP JOULE plans and commissions numerous free-standing PV plants and biogas plants in both the north and the south of Germany: the magic mark of 100 megawatts is passed. The decentralisation of power generation begins to gain momentum.


Developing its business rapidly all over Germany, GP JOULE grows especially in the field of photovoltaics, with numerous free-standing plants being built. A highlight of the year is the inauguration of the Ammerland solar park near Oldenburg – with 40 MWp, it is the first major milestone in the young company’s development as a general contractor in EPC and power plant construction. At the same time, GP JOULE's largest single project to date is underway in Lusatia: a free-standing PV plant with a total output of 140 MWp is installed under the direction of GP JOULE on a former slag heap belonging to a local open-cast lignite mine. At the time it is the largest of its kind in Germany, with 70 MWp. Even back then, GP JOULE was ahead of its time in generating energy from the sun rather than from lignite.

The same applies to the company’s international growth strategy: GP JOULE acquires projects in France and Italy and starts its first activities in those countries. And that’s not all: the first delicate “GPJOULE seed” is planted in California. And another innovation highlights the future spirit of the energy pioneers. The miniJOULE – the first ever DIY solar system – initiates the democratisation of energy production with “do-it-yourself electric power”.


No sooner is there talk of power-to-gas than Gärtner and Petersen recognise the relevance and future significance of this technology in terms of climate protection: the step has to be made from a purely electricity-based turnaround to a truly integrated energy turnaround. They purchase a holding in H-TEC SYSTEMS GmbH in Lübeck so as to drive forward the development of highly flexible PEM electrolysis stacks. At the same time, GP JOULE takes to the political stage of Berlin for the first time: with their EEG 2042 concept, the company’s founders think far ahead, sketching out the path into an age of renewable expansion without subsidies – long before this was considered realistic in the industry or among most politicians. 2012 also marks the start of GP JOULE’s activities in the area of wind power: André Hirsch joins the company as the third partner, symbolising the diversification of the group; the first wind farm planned by GP JOULE in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is connected to the grid. The company’s internationalisation strategy also begins to bear fruit: in Italy and France, a large number of free-standing solar plants are put into operation – the energy revolution is everywhere.


Several solar parks planned and built by GP JOULE are inaugurated in south-western France – an occasion that is marked with a large-scale public celebration and lots of political celebrities. The sensation here is that GP JOULE is also able to provide system services. A specially planned and built transformer station and a reactive current compensation system provide what went beyond the imagination of some network operators: renewable energy can be fed into the public system, thereby noticeably relieving the load on the power grid. Freiburg demonstrates how sector cross-linkage and climate protection can become a reality in the future in transportation, industry and heating: the first extremely compact PEM electrolysis stack made by H-TEC SYSTEMS – the EL 30 – goes into regular test operation at Fraunhofer ISE. The market launch is not far off ...


GP JOULE's internationalisation and diversification strategy pays off yet again: while in Germany the project volume in new business declines significantly, especially in photovoltaics as a result of the latest amendments to the Renewable Energy Sources Act, the project pipeline in wind business is filling up noticeably – especially on the other side of the Atlantic. The first free-standing PV projects are implemented in Canada – right next to Niagara Falls.

Meanwhile the GP JOULE think-tank is running at full speed back home. With its “power gap filler”, the company demonstrates how electrolysis can guarantee 100% security of supply based on renewable energies.


In 2015, sector cross-linkage is still a buzzword known to nobody except a handful of “energy turnaround nerds”. But for GP JOULE, the focus is on practical experience rather than theory: it consistently converts its fleet of company vehicles to zero-emission cars, investing in the expansion of its charging infrastructure on site in Reußenköge as well at the homes of its employees. The motto here is: “Don’t just talk about being a pioneer – actions speak louder than words.” This also includes the commissioning of the first power-to-gas plant in North Frisia. Meanwhile, more and more project flags go on the map across the big pond: GP JOULE successfully develops PV projects in numerous US states and various regions of Canada.


H-TEC SYSTEMS presents the next major milestone in its development work at Hannover Messe 2016: the first megawatt-class PEM electrolysis stack – the ELS 350 – goes into sector cross-linkage, now enabling decarbonisation of all sectors. As Northern Germany’s overseas flagship, GP JOULE continues to make waves on the North American continent: a high-ranking delegation of business representatives and politicians from the state of California experience this for themselves at first hand in California, where GP JOULE has installed a free-standing PV system in the renowned Paraiso Vineyards that is operated according to the net metering principle. A model that should be reimported to Germany! In 2016, the next innovative offshoot of GP JOULE is launched and begins to flourish: with CONNECT, GP JOULE creates the everyday solution to the “chicken-and-egg problem” of electromobility: it no longer looks at vehicles, energy and infrastructure in isolation but merges them – the start of another success story.


What others still think is a vision becomes a simple reality at GP JOULE: the company hands over the feasibility study for its “eFarm” innovation project to the then Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein. Soon, fuel cell buses will be driving through North Frisia that run on hydrogen produced from wind power.

The German head of state visits the pioneer of the energy revolution: Frank-Walter Steinmeier chooses Cecilienkoog for his inaugural visit to Schleswig-Holstein to get a first-hand impression of how and where innovations and smart solutions for the energy system of the future are created. This was a great honour for GP HOULE – and an even greater incentive to continue in the pursuit of its goal. The time finally comes: Hannover Messe 2017 provides the setting for the world premiere of the first megawatt class electrolyser by H-TEC SYSTEMS. Sector cross-linkage is now as simple as it could ever be, in other words: if you don't decarbonise now, you only have yourself to blame.


Once again, the focus is on North America – star by star or state by state – and the sphere of action of GP JOULE’s project pipeline continues to expand, both in the USA and Canada. The first projects are also launched in South America.


10 years of GP JOULE – certainly not a reason to take a break: after all, the founders are still far from achieving their ultimate goal, despite all the milestones. The company continues to head relentlessly towards its goal of 100 % renewable energy!