Looking to the future: A modern bioenergy location in a rural setting

The chimneys of the pulp mill tower over the industrial park in the Altmark region in the north of Saxony-Anhalt and can be seen from miles away. These chimneys are a symbol of modern industry. High-quality industrial products and green energy are now produced at the huge site. For this reason, the Altmark Industrial and Commercial Park has recently become one of the Saxony-Anhalt Centers of Excellence. Plenty of land is still available for businesses to relocate to the site.


The area has always looked to the future and focused on energy production. More than 50 years ago, the authorities in the German Democratic Republic decided to build the country’s largest nuclear power plant in the Altmark. The conditions were ideal for the development with large areas of land available, the river Elbe and its industrial port, a rail connection and the nearby Hanseatic town of Stendal which is home to a potential workforce and has a busy cultural scene. The power plant was never brought into operation, but the area continued to develop and is now a promising industrial and commercial location.

Over the last 20 years, a special bioenergy site has grown up in the heart of Germany between Berlin, Hamburg, Wolfsburg and Hanover. Sven Schulze, the Minister of Economic Affairs of Saxony-Anhalt, recently awarded it the status of Center of Excellence. Development on the site is far from over and more than 220 hectares of land is available for new arrivals. This includes one of the largest contiguous commercial sites in central Germany covering an area of almost 60 hectares. The site is developed and offers opportunities that are hard to find elsewhere.


The pulp mill launched a new era

Shortly after the last cooling towers of the power plant had been demolished, construction work began on the chimneys of the Mercer International Group plant. In 2004, the Canadian company opened one of the most modern pulp mills in the world. Now the 600 employees at the plant produce up to 740,000 metric tons of pulp each year. In addition, the site is being developed to create a state-of-the-art biorefinery. At the industrial park in the Altmark, Mercer is already operating Germany’s largest biomass power plant with an output of 148 megawatts and an extraction facility for turpentine and tall oil.

The arrival of Mercer launched a new era for the location, which is now being given an additional boost. “We have excellent conditions here for companies that are looking to the future,” says Sven Schulze, the Minister for Economic Affairs. In addition to the land available, other important considerations at the site include the infrastructure and the soft factors. There are plans to build a second rail line into the industrial park, the port on the river Elbe is available for industrial use, a hydropower plant is in operation at the site and the nearest regional airport is located in Stendal. Most importantly, the Altmark region is an ideal location for modern companies. It has a strong renewable energy sector and good links with the research community via the nearby university in Stendal.

Young people come to the Altmark because it has a well-developed fiber network and relatively low property prices, even though many of Germany’s large cities are less than an hour away by intercity express train from Stendal. The area has launched a successful initiative to encourage young people to return and the trend for living on the land is in full swing. “This is a place for young people,” says Sven Schulze and adds: “The high subsidy rates for businesses moving to Saxony-Anhalt are available here as they are throughout the region.” The minister also highlighted the construction of the A14 federal freeway. In a few years, the north-south route through the Altmark will be completed.

All the 32 companies that have moved to the Altmark Industrial and Commercial Park now benefit from these factors. One of the first was AMS, a mechanical engineering company. Almost 30 years ago, a group of engineers came together to find a company in the buildings of the abandoned, unfinished nuclear power plant. Today it employs more than 150 people. AMS specializes in manufacturing huge cranes to meet individual customers’ requirements. They can move loads weighing up to 40 metric tons and have booms that can be as much as 55 meters or, in the future, even 100 meters long. The manufacturing buildings have solar panels on the roofs to supply the company with energy.


An independent future with green energy

The future concept for the site is that the entire park will have its own largely independent energy supply. The focus is on a networking approach, which is why a pilot hydrogen plant is already in operation at the park. Companies can also erect a wind turbine on their sites to generate their own electricity. The aim is for the businesses in the industrial park to supply each other with green energy. In the future, the manufacturing processes for all the products in the park will be as climate neutral as possible, with the help of a circular economy. Any company that intends to base its production on green energy will find the ideal conditions in the Altmark.

One example is Sofidel, an international business from Italy that has been producing paper for hygienic and domestic use at the industrial park since 2006. It benefits primarily from the nearby pulp mill which supplies the raw materials that it needs. Every year around 100,000 metric tons of toilet paper, kitchen rolls and tissues leave the factory, which employs 350 people. Sofidel is also aiming to improve its green credentials. It is in the process of replacing its plastic packaging with paper and is working on reducing its water and energy consumption.

Ten years ago, another modern company, Weltec Biopower, moved to the site. It has been producing biogas in its refinery since 2013 and every hour feeds around 700 cubic meters of biomethane into the gas network.

Visitors to the industrial and commercial park today can still see the signs of past developments. Not all of the buildings belonging to the nuclear power plant, which was once regarded as modern, have been demolished. Many of the industrial and office buildings are still in use, while others stand empty. In their midst are new plants constructed by highly efficient businesses. The industrial transformation of the site is already well underway. Any companies interested in finding out more about the location can contact the park operator Altmark Industrie Management GmbH or the Investment and Marketing Corporation Saxony-Anhalt.

Author: Björn Menzel


More information about the Altmark Industrial and Commercial Park

At a glance

  • Total size 740 hectares
  • Area available for new arrivals 220 hectares
  • Manufacturing and office buildings available
  • • Currently 32 companies and 1200 employees


  • Rail link, Elbe port, close to the future A14 freeway
  • Hydropower plant, green energy
  • Magdeburg/Stendal University of Applied Sciences