After about two total weeks of work, the forest of planted trees on Tesla’s Giga Berlin site is now gone. Tesla finished “phase 1” of their forest clearance project this week, just before their early March deadline.

Drone footage of the now-empty site came to us from TeslaKid Grünheide, who lives near the factory site. He has been providing drone footage every few days showing progress on the project.

Tesla was in a hurry to finish clearing this forest before March, because that’s when the mating season begins for birds, after which trees are not allowed to be cut until birds have left their nests. If Tesla didn’t finish by March, they’d have had to wait months to continue clearing, setting their project back by months. Tesla is on a tight deadline to get the gigafactory up and running by mid-2021, and a delay of several months would ruin that schedule.

And it seems they’ve pulled it off, and just in time.

In the wider shots, all of “phase 1” looks to have been cleared. The total area of phase 1 is about 90 hectares. Tesla has an additional 63 hectares to clear in “phase 1B,” which will happen at a later date.

Phase 1 corresponds to the area around the first of four buildings Tesla plans to build, and also employee parking and access roads around the building. Phase 1B covers access roads and a railyard for shipping cars. Other facilities, including a building for cell manufacturing, will be handled later.

Tesla plans to plant three times as many trees as they cut down for the factory site, but there were many questions about whether the project could go ahead up until just a couple weeks ago.

In fact, even after Tesla started cutting trees, work was temporarily halted two weeks ago while complaints from environmental groups were sorted out by German courts. The group that brought the complaint eventually came to an agreement with Tesla, but another group refused to relent and forced a court to hear the case.

The second group, the Association for Landscape Conservation and Species Protection in Bavaria (VLAB), was originally formed to oppose the installation of wind turbines and solar power systems. They support the use of fossil fuels and associate with groups that deny the reality of the climate crisis.

After about a week and much public outcry opposing the work stoppage, including from representatives of the national German Green party (Die Grünen), courts ruled that Tesla could continue with work.

That was nine days ago, and tree-clearing work is now finished. There’s still work to be done, though — there’s a large pile of rubble on the site, and many tree stumps are still there. And then, of course, there’s a whole factory to build.

Tesla plans to use the site not just for building batteries, powertrains and cars, but is also considering opening a design and engineering center there.

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