North Korean Experts in Europe

Study-trip about renewable energy sources and energy efficiency takes place in March after much preparation: The experts, Mr. Jang and Mr. Pak arrived safely. Our intern, Dennis Matzka, met them at the Frankfurt airport. Although exhausted from their long journey, the group boarded a local train at rush-hour for the final leg of their journey on that day. The goal is to make the most of each moment during the study-trip: the next day begins with a visit to a wind turbine manufacturing company specializing in hybrid turbines. Mr. Jang is particularly impressed with the presentation and feels that this kind of turbine would be especially suitable for supplying electricity to rural areas of his country. After an enthusiastic discussion and time for the experts on both sides to talk shop, the group sets off for Switzerland. The North Koreans are amazed that there is no border control of any kind!

The journey takes them to Uster, the location of Sustech GmbH, owned by Mr. Werner Hässig, where they learned more about energy efficient building techniques and how to calculate energy usage levels according to Swiss norms. These standards are designed to promote reasonable and economical energy use for heating and hot water production. A model house using these techniques will be built on Duru Island in Pyongyang. Werner Hässig has already visited North Korea multiple times acting as a consultant and instructor. He again took advantage of this chance to share his expertise. One day later the experts travelled to the Appenzell region, where they visited various small hydroelectric power stations. In North Korea, nearly ten times as many homes could be supplied with electricity from just one of these power generators than currently in Switzerland! In Andelfingen (canton Zurich), two passionate inventors found one another: Mr. Jang is an engineer through and through, and the interaction with Mr. Wepfer was enthusiastic to say the least – pushing intern Dennis Matzka‘s translation skills to the limit and allowing two kindred spirits to share their fascination about all things technical. The next day they headed east to visit a house insulated with straw followed by a tour of the Minergie-Exposition in Lucerne that afternoon. This exhibition for energy efficient building techniques that do not compromise on comfortable living conditions is a visionary display created to appeal to lay people. You can learn about everything from new insulation materials to various construction options, from energy efficient homes to special windows and heat pumps! Sunday is a cultural day with a visit to the Swiss National Museum and lots of questions about Swiss history: for example, the date of the last war on Swiss soil. The answer: more than 150 years ago in 1847, a civil war called the „Sonderbund War“. The weapons exhibition was a source of fascination with examples from over the centuries. After a wonderful Chinese meal with a lot of rice and spicy flavors that were a taste of home and the best Swiss chocolate from Läderach, the group took a relaxed boat trip on Lake Zurich, a chance to stop and think about the impressions of the previous days. The visit to the North Korean embassy in Bern for a traditional „home-cooked“ meal was followed by another highlight: A visit to a unique greenhouse in Lörrach, Germany, which uses solar power and the help of a simple, two-cylinder Stirling engine to produce electricity from warm water and helps promote plant growth as well. With all these advantages, this greenhouse produces about four times more than a typical greenhouse. Mr. Jang is so fascinated by the Stirling engine that he would have loved to take it with him! The final stop on the tour is at the large German company juwi. This firm designs and operates systems for all kinds of renewable energy sources from hydroelectric power to solar energy to geothermal energy. This visit gives the experts a behind the scenes look as well as encouraging them to think big for the future. Nearly overloaded with new information, impressions and ideas for the future of their country, Mr. Jang and Mr. Pak fly home.

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