Bats, birds and ants evicted for new Tesla plant near Berlin

US electric car giant Tesla began clearing forest for its first European "Gigafactory" near Berlin Thursday, and is now racing against the clock to rehouse ants, birds and hibernating bats.

Bats, birds and ants evicted for new Tesla plant near Berlin
Tesla cleared forest on Friday for its new plant in Grüneheide. Photo: DPA

Workers have started clearing a 92-hectare area of forest at the
site in Grünheide in Brandenburg state after Tesla received the green light from authorities last month.

READ ALSO: Tesla gets green light for factory site near Berlin

But after concerns from environmentalists, Tesla has announced measures to relocate wildlife from the affected area, according to reports in various German media this week.

The company will have to relocate “forest ants, reptiles and five bats”, Tagesspiegel daily wrote Wednesday.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, numerous ant colonies would be dug out with “shovels and little diggers” and relocated way from the plot.

Tesla spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment on the

According to local media, the company has also promised to hang 400 nesting
boxes in the area, as deforestation will rob a number of birds of their homes.

Tesla's planned factory site in Grüneheide, Brandenburg. Photo: DPA

But with the factory intended to open in 2021, the car giant faces a race against time to clear the forest and relocate the animals.

Birds will return to nest in the trees from March onwards, and the bats are set to wake from hibernation and begin mating around the same time.

Germany's Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) warned that moving the bats in particular would not be easy.

“To disturb the bats as little as possible, they will have to be moved during hibernation,” Christiane Schröder, director of NABU's Brandenburg branch, told the Berliner Zeitung daily last month.

In a recent interview with Tagesspiegel, Brandenburg's state environment minister Axel Vogel praised Tesla's environmentally minded approach.

Tesla had “approached conservationists early and proactively,” said the Greens party politician. Co-founder Elon Musk had himself proposed a plan to plant three times as many trees as would be cut down, he added.

Brandenburg, a state surrounding Berlin, has high hopes that Tesla's arrival could bring thousands of high quality jobs.

But critics have claimed that deforestation could harm wildlife and endanger the drinking water supply.

And environmental protection is not the only hurdle Tesla have faced in

Last month, authorities defused seven World War II bombs discovered at the site of the future factory. 

READ ALSO: Seven World War II bombs diffused at Tesla's factory site near Berlin

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Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

The Freyr battery start-up has halted construction of its Giga Arctic factory and demanded additional government subsidies, Norway's state broadcaster NRK has reported.

Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

Jan Arve Haugan, the company’s operations director, told the broadcaster that the company would not order any more equipment until Norway’s government committed to further subsidies. 

“We are holding back further orders for prefabricated steel and concrete pending clarification on further progress,” he said. “We are keen to move forward, but we have to respect that there is a political process going on, and we have expectations that words will be put into action.” 

Freyr in April 2019 announced its plans to build the 17 billion kroner Giga Arctic in Mo i Rana, and has so far received 4 billion kroner in loans and loan guarantees from the Norwegian government. It has already started construction and hopes to complete the build by 2024-2025. 

Haugan said that the enormous subsidies for green industry in the Inflation Reduction Act voted through in the US in 2022 had changed the playing field for companies like Freyr, meaning Norway would need to increase the level of subsidies if the project was to be viable. 

Freyr in December announced plans for Giga America, a $1.3bn facility which it plans to build in Coweta, Georgia.   

“What the Americans have done, which is completely exceptional, is to provide very solid support for the renewable industry,” Haugen said. “This changes the framework conditions for a company like Freyr, and we have to take that into account.” 

Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s industry minister, said that the government was looking at what actions to take to counter the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, but said he was unwilling to get drawn into a subsidy battle with the US. 

“The government is working on how to upgrade our instruments and I hope that we will have further clarifications towards the summer,” he said.

“We are not going to imitate the Americans’ subsidy race. We have never competed in Norway to be the cheapest or most heavily subsidised. We have competed on competence, Norwegian labour, clean and affordable energy and being world champions in high productivity.”