BERLIN, GERMANY: West Berlin wasn't just the free half of this city during the Cold War; it was an island. All around the reunified capital today, there are reminders of East Germany's economic past, and signs that Europe's largest economy can do more to bring the East into the future.
The Bauhaus school of design made the eastern city of Dessau its home in the 1920s and early 30s. Then the Nazi regime and the Iron Curtain shut Dessau and its environs behind an industrial and political airlock.
What you see in the picture below is actually an old coal mine just outside of Dessau. Following reunification, the pit that had been dug there to extract low-grade lignite (also known as brown coal) was flooded to create a small lake. Now the gigantic machines get most use as lit-up backdrops for the Melt! music festival each summer, and the site is called Ferropolis, or, "city of steel."
It would be short sighted to only shut down industrial facilities like the brown coal mine above and turn them into museums or fairgrounds, without creating an alternative for employment.
But, bringing the East back to capitalism and into the European Union hasn't been as smooth as many would have liked. And as a matter of fact, anti-Nazi movements are very vocal in Berlin as a counterbalance to right-wing nationalism that preys on unemployed eastern youth (the jobless rate here is twice that of western states).
In 1961 West Germany invited thousands of guest workers from Turkey to help rebuild the economy after the country lost its young, male workforce in the war.
And it's that population of guest workers and their descendants whom many extremists blame for their own unemployment and continuing East-West imbalances.
But in Ferropolis and Dessau, there is hope on the horizon in the form of renewable energy...
Renewable Energy in Germany
Just across the manmade lake from Ferropolis you can see an array of wind turbines, churning to give government-subsidized electricity to hundreds of local homes.
Germany produces nearly half of all the wind turbines in the world, and a third of all solar (photovoltaic) cells. The government sees renewable energy as an inevitable trend and wants to put Germany at the top of the international market.
This Wednesday, I'll meet with representatives of one of Germany's top solar energy companies. Based smack-dab in the middle of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR, as East Germany was officially known), this firm is one of many that is making the old eastern industrial heartland its home.
In fact, Germany has become a global role model for how renewable energy industries can be encouraged on a national level.
The United States, Japan, and Germany are the top economies in the world—an amazing fact considering the horrible war all three fought just two generations ago—but Germany is lightyears ahead of Japan in its clean energy development.
In Ernst & Young's latest Renewable Energy Attractiveness Index, Germany is second only to the United States, and Japan is #20 on the list of overall renewable progress and future profit potential.
That includes solar power, offshore and onshore wind projects, biomass, and the infrastructure to tie it all to homes and companies to create a new energy reality.
And in today's market, energy is the main driver...
Investing in German Solar Energy
You may feel poorer when you fill up the gas tank, but the countries and companies that have solutions at hand will benefit greatly. Public listings are abundant, but what my colleagues and I have found is that the hottest opportunities are trading overseas.
That's why we launched Green Chip International, where this week I'll be giving subscribers the first on-location look at our top German solar power holding from its production line all the way to marketing and revenue.
It's a company that's trading down these days, like so many, but where optimism is hard to come by in the broader market filled with doubts on value and consumer sentiment, Germany's solar power players are set to pop hard to the upside once the storm clears.
And when the sun shines, this solar power winner will shine even brighter.
Don't miss out, subscribe to Green Chip International today and get the latest on-location report.