The Netherlands is the leading European company in the field of solar energy

A car park covered with solar panels in Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has the largest number of solar panels per capita in Europe, despite the lack of space. Small country finds innovative places, From garbage dumps to artificial lakes, To build solar power stations.

aIn the Dutch countryside, about 130 kilometers east of Amsterdam, an unusual-looking hill towers and shines above leafless farms and trees and muddy pastures.

hill – 25 metres It consists of domestic and industrial waste collected over a period of 15 years. What it covers is more than impressive: 23,000 solar panels.

Dutch solar developer TPSolar opened the facility in Armhoede, eastern Netherlands, in mid-2020. It can produce up to 8.9 megawatts of electricity, which the former landfill site now produces enough electricity for about 2,500 households.

little space

The project reflects an important trend in the Netherlands, where more than 48 million solar panels have already been installed: finding innovative venues for new renewable energy capacities.

“Because we have so little space in the Netherlands, it is important that the land be used for multiple purposes.”

Now that there is a shortage of land for installing renewable energy almost everywhere in the world, the Dutch approach could be a source of inspiration for better installations of renewable energy around the world. The Dutch put solar energy in parking lots, trade lakes, sheep pastures, strawberry farms, abandoned churches, train stations, and airports, among other things.

“Because we have so little space in the Netherlands, it is important to use the land for multiple purposes,” he says. Bernd Nin Tuelhaar, Coordinator at Solarfields Dutch solar energy company. This company operates large solar parks and has installed no less than 450,000 panels in the country.

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“We have to be innovative and creative,” he adds, “to be able to produce the electricity the Netherlands needs to become greener.”

energy independence

The Netherlands currently has an average of 2 solar panels per inhabitant and an installed capacity of over 1 kilowatt (KW) per person. This means that the country has the highest number of solar panels per capita in Europe, according to the Solar Energy Sector Association in Europe.

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Analysts say the Dutch progress is due to a massive drop in equipment prices, an effective energy subsidy scheme, and ambitious government targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The government aims to make 70 percent of its electricity renewable by 2030, mainly by expanding solar and wind capacities.

Like many EU countries, the Netherlands is reducing its energy dependence on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

Dutch solar and wind farms have helped fill an electricity shortage caused by gas-fired power plants made unprofitable by record high gas prices.

But farmland in the Netherlands belongs to The most expensive In the European Union, making it difficult to find space for solar plans.

This fact, in combination with euphoria Population densitymeans that solar companies have to be creative in finding space.

European leader in solar energy

In recent years, the Netherlands has incorporated effective climate targets into law, and has made promises to do so Gas and oil exploration on the ground and increase green spending in general. The national renewable energy budget for 2022 was €13 billion.

Last year, the Netherlands generated 14 percent of its electricity from solar parks, compared with 1 percent in 2015. The share of electricity from solar power was the highest in the European Union, according to knowledge center EmberClimate.

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At the same time, the Netherlands has been using a “net metering” tariff system since 2004, which allows households with solar panels to offset their consumption with green electricity production. According to the Department of Energy, this is one reason more than two million homes already generate their own sustainable electricity.

“Instead of having to fight about who gets access to the land, we came up with solutions to use it together.”

A spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Energy said via email that the Dutch government is exploring how site planning and financial support can encourage the construction of more solar parks.

Yuri Jacobs, who focuses on building green energy projects at waste treatment company Afvalzorg, described the Dutch approach to sustainable energy as “very MacGyver-like”. It’s a reference to an 1980s American TV show about a resourceful secret agent who assembles ingenious devices from everyday objects.

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“We take different energy technologies, combine them and try to make a combination that really works,” says Jacobs. His company has partnered with a local utility to convert unused landfills into solar farms.

“It takes a while, but once everyone gets on the train, we can get it done relatively quickly in the Netherlands.”

Floating solar power stations

Almost 20% of the lowland area is made up of water. Solar developers, including GroenLeven, have taken advantage of this by installing solar power plants on artificial lakes.

The company said the company has installed more than 500,000 solar panels on Dutch waters, placing the Netherlands behind only China in such locations globally.

“The idea of ​​floating solar energy appeared earlier in the Netherlands than in other countries,” he says. Benedict OrtmanDirector of Solar Projects at German renewable energy company BayWare, which acquired GroenLeven in 2018.

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Inspired by the Dutch example, BayWare will now roll out more floating solar sites in European countries such as Belgium, Austria and France.

Because the Netherlands is so small, you are always working in someone’s backyard.

Dutch companies are also looking at ways to make solar power plants work in tandem with agricultural production. “Rather than having to fight about who gets access to the land, we came up with solutions to use it together,” he said. Carl QuiggBusiness Development Manager for large-scale photovoltaics (PV) at the Dutch subsidiary of Swedish utility Vattenfall.

One so-called “Agri-PV” project involves growing strawberries and raspberries under a roof with solar panels, replacing the plastic sheeting traditionally used by farmers.

Halfway through a four-year pilot project, project leaders said the plants needed 25 percent less water because they were protected from the sun.

Local interests first

Across the board, Dutch solar developers say new projects must be created with local interests in mind.

For example, the 2019 Climate Plan states that renewable energy projects must allocate 50 percent of green energy produced to local residents.

Although it is not required by law, developers usually invest in the community For example by sending a percentage of renewable energy generated to local energy cooperatives or creating a socio-economic fund to improve energy efficiency.

“Because the Netherlands is so small,” he says, “you’re always working in someone’s backyard.” Robert van der Horstproject developer at TPSolar.

“You always have to talk to people and discuss what’s best for a particular area,” he adds. Then you try to boost that with your own solar garden“.

This article was originally published by IPS Partner Thomson Reuters News Foundation.

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