Tesla formally wins final environmental approval to open Gigafactory Berlin

Credit: @Gf4Tesla/Twitter

The wait is finally over. After a long process that saw delays, controversies, and other drama, Tesla Gigafactory Berlin has won its final environmental approval from Germany. An official document confirming the update was published by the State of Brandenburg, outlining the next steps that the electric vehicle maker needs to do to start vehicle production in its Germany-based electric vehicle factory. 

As per the state’s press release, the approval for Giga Berlin covers several activities, such as the production of up to 500,000 vehicles per year. The approval also includes battery cell production activities within the Giga Berlin complex, which should allow Tesla to manufacture its in-house cells from within Germany. 

“The project, which was approved with the 536-page decision, includes the plant for the production of up to 500,000 vehicles per year, aluminum smelting plants and an aluminum foundry, plants for surface treatment, heat generation, and storage. The facility also includes battery cell production, an operational wastewater treatment plant, a fire brigade equipment house, a high-bay warehouse, as well as laboratories and workshops,” the press release read. 

Giga Berlin’s new graffiti panels as of early FebruGiga Berlin’s new graffiti panels as of early February 2022. (Credit: @Gf4Tesla/Twitter)ary 2022. (Credit: @Gf4Tesla/Twitter)

It should be noted that while it may have taken two years to get to this point, Gigafactory Berlin’s formal approval was still completed in a quick manner, at least relatively speaking. The past two years, after all, required the State Office of the Environment to not only inspect and approve the factory itself, but also the entire industrial area with several large-scale facilities. Environment Minister Alex Vogel expressed his thanks to the state’s employees and other authorities for Giga Berlin’s quick approval process.

“As a high-performing state administration, you have always focused on the technical requirements, the high level of protection of the environment, the protection of the general public and the neighborhood from dangers, even under the pressure of great public interest and unreasonable harassment as well as the legal certainty of the procedure. In times of climate crisis, the availability of water will play an increasingly important role for future developments and settlements. Above all, digitization can help to simplify and accelerate processes without restricting environmental standards and participation rights,” Vogel said. 

District Administrator Rolf Lindemann emphasized that Giga Berlin benefits the region. The fact that the project faced much adversity, and was still able to achieve a milestone such as a final environmental approval in a relatively short time, proves that the project’s potential is vast. He also noted that Giga Berlin, as well as those that have been working with Tesla over the past two years to approve the project, shall face whatever challenges lie ahead with vigor.  

“The Oder-Spree district described the Tesla Gigafactory as a real stroke of luck for the development of our region. We have therefore mobilized all our strength to help turn this unique opportunity into a visible success. It wasn’t always easy, and we’re anything but done when it comes to the final form of the overall project. But we all have reason to be proud of what we have achieved so far, despite all prophecies of doom.

“That is why we will face the further challenges that lie ahead with confidence and with undiminished vigor. I am referring to the official support of the further expansion stages, the completion of the battery factory and of great importance, especially for local politics: as far as possible, a stress-free integration of the Gigafactory into the traffic infrastructure . However, in order to be able to meet the sustainability aspect and smooth mobility in connection with production, it is of course necessary to start building housing close to the location and to create the associated social infrastructure. We trust in the same support from the state government that we have been able to rely on in the past,” Lindemann said. 

A look inside Tesla Giga Berlin’s body shop for the Model Y. (Credit: Tesla Inc.)

While Giga Berlin’s final environment approval has been secured, Tesla still has to ensure that it meets the state’s requirements. These are highlighted by the mammoth size of its approval documents, which comprise over 23,700 pages in 66 files. More than 400 ancillary provisions are included, involving topics such as requirements for groundwater protection as well as water-saving and wastewater-reducing measures, species protection measures, limit values for air pollutants and regulations on their measurement as well as occupational safety requirements. Other specific rules on the plant’s operations, particularly with regards to how it affects the area’s groundwater, were also highlighted in the press release. 

“There are 113 air pollution control requirements, which include respective chimney heights for each exhaust air stream. In addition, 22 requirements determine the methods and intervals at which the exhaust air is to be measured. 96 requirements for drinking water protection, waste water disposal and rainwater specify, among other things, limit values for discharge into the waste water pressure line and corresponding cleaning processes. When using building materials, it is important to ensure that no harmful substances get into the groundwater. With groundwater monitoring, both the formation of new groundwater and the quality of the groundwater must be checked regularly. In view of the tense water situation, not least due to climate change, it should be possible to react to changes as early as possible.

“After the inspection by the approval authority, the entire system falls under the provisions of the Hazardous Incidents Ordinance (12th BImSchV) and must therefore take special precautions to prevent incidents and limit the effects of incidents, as well as maintain an appropriate safety distance from adjacent protected objects. Tesla must draw up an incident concept and comply with special information obligations,” the press release read. 

The state noted that Tesla may now start or continue with the further construction of Giga Berlin and that objections to the project now have “no suspensive effect.” It should be noted, however, that before Tesla can actually put its Model Y production facility into operation, several ancillary provisions must be met first. These provisions, which include the installation of measuring devices for air pollutants and precautions for fire protection and accidents, will be checked by the responsible authorities. Once Tesla completes this step, Model Y production for customer vehicles could finally commence. 

Needless to say, all eyes are now focused on how quickly Tesla can meet the requirements for Giga Berlin’s operational permit. 

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Tesla formally wins final environmental approval to open Gigafactory Berlin
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