In Alsace, A Town Name Too Long For E-Commerce

Can you say 'Niederschaeffolsheim' three times fast?

In Alsace, A Town Name Too Long For E-Commerce
Rozena Crossman

Along the border with Germany, the French region of Alsace is known for its white wine, Christmas markets and … ridiculously long town names. So long, in fact, that one resident of the little town of Niederschaeffolsheim was unable to buy a pair of sneakers.

Here's how this unusual online clash played out recently between the old Alsatian language and modern word counts, as reported in local daily Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace. A 16-year-old named Justine was wrapping up her purchase on Foot Locker's website when she was prompted to insert her address. The box, however, had a limit of 15 letters, and Niederschaeffolsheim adds up to 20. "I thought it was surely an error, so I re-tried but it didn't work," she told the newspaper. "I can't do anything about the name of my village."

Justine decided to tweet a screenshot of the ordeal, hoping to give Foot Locker a gentle nudge. She didn't expect over 5,000 shares and 45,000 likes, or comments such as "Your tweet is more efficient than a geography class' and "the name of your town is a Scrabble winner." Justine was thrilled to introduce her compatriots to "one of the longest town names in Alsace."

The French often poke fun at long Alsatian names, but these denominations are relics of singular dialects unique to the region. For centuries, the area's ownership has been hotly disputed between France and Germany; As a result, Alsatian dialects are a hodgepodge of the two languages, inheriting German's long-winded word construction. Multiple times throughout history, Alsatian dialects were banned in schools by the French government as a way to eradicate German influence.

As a result, these regional languages are dwindling. A 2013 report from the French Minister of Culture found only 42% of Alsatian citizens could converse in its dialects, whereas 62% were considered "fluent" in 1999. Geography is perhaps the last bastion of these rarefied tongues, harboring magnificent mouthfuls like Mittelschaeffolsheim, Pfulgriesheim and Breuschwickersheim.

Alsatians are not alone in their linguistic lengthiness: The longest town name in France, Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont-Saint-Genest-et-Isson, is located further west in the Marne region.

Foot Locker claimed to have never had any previous issues with their 15-letter town-name limit. "Time will tell if this Tweet will convince brands to adapt their websites to our dear Alsatian communities," concluded Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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