Solar power and Largest Solar Projects the push to achieve net zero have never been more prominent than they are now. Governments and leading scientists are delivering constant messages promoting the need to go green and to use more sustainable and renewable sources of energy. Quite simply, these energy sources are wind and sun powered which are constantly replenished. Unlike fossil fuels, these renewable energy sources should last forever. The Dutch, like many other countries across the world are making these energy sources more of a priority and are working tirelessly to better utilise them. More and more buildings are fitted with solar panels including schools, offices, and houses. The quality of these panels is increasing all the time and are becoming more and more efficient in producing electricity. Away from this are smaller scale solar powered items which ordain outdoor spaces both in public and in private.
There has been a substantial growth in solar powered projects in the Netherlands in recent times. The number of projects has increased but so has the size of these projects. Over 2 million solar panels have been installed in their 50 most recent projects alone. This growth has also led to more investors getting on board with the solar market including Groenleven, Ecorus and Solarfield.
What has been interesting in the Netherlands is the locations of solar projects in terms of where the panels are being installed. Rooftop installations are in the decline and field-based panels are on the up. In simple terms, there is more space for larger projects on the ground than on the tops of buildings. Landowners have also started to realise that solar energy is more cost effective for them in the long run. Scientists and engineers have also managed to create floating panels which can be utilised on water. “Solar panels are fixed to buoyancy aided structures which prevent them from sinking. As a nation, the Dutch are way ahead of other countries in their renewable energy research and implementation. What is a shame is the high levels of fossil fuel consumption that has been going on for decades” says Joe Kiddle, a technical writer at Paper fellows and Boom Essays.
On the face of it, more solar panels being installed great for the Netherlands (and it is) but there are problems developing. Areas being labelled as ‘solar hotspots’ are causing problems for the electricity grid. This has actually led to some projects being delayed or postponed whilst grid capacity is addressed. Projects such as Midden Groningen and Ooltensplaat for example were delayed due to grid issues. The Groningen site is now the largest in the country!
Solar projects can encounter difficulties of varying degrees. Not being connected to the grid is a problem that has been reported at some sites where some encounter significant damage from fires.
There are many different projects across the Netherlands which are at varying stages of completion. Four of the top twenty are currently under construction. In fact, the largest project, the Midden-Groningen, which is now fully constructed and fully operational, produces 103,00 million watts (ML) from its 320,000 solar panels. Unsurprisingly, this project is built in fields rather than on roof tops. Nineteen of the twenty are field based solar projects. Only the Royal Dekker will be a roof top installation. This project is under completion and will produce 9,30 MW from 35,000 panels. To date, the largest completed project is the Scaldia set up which produces 54,50 MW from 140,000. Large as this project is, it will be dwarfed by the Midden-Groningen. These projects are scattered across the different regions of Netherlands. The region of Groningen hosts a quarter of the top 20, closely followed by South Holland hosting four. Widespread projects further show the developments being made across the Netherlands and the move they are making toward sustainability.
Rather than simply list the top 20 largest solar projects it is more beneficial to break the list up to fully appreciate the size of some of these sites.
From number 20 to number 12 are as follows:
Royal Dekker, Avri Solar, De Vaandel. de Kie, Rilland, Woldjerspoor, Hoodveld-Uden and Emmeloord. Following these is Stadskanaal.
These solar projects produce between 8 MW and 14 MW of power. To put these figures into a context, 1 MW of solar energy can power approximately 164 residential homes. Obviously, this depends on the size of the home and its energy usage but even these smaller solar projects will make significant differences to the energy systems in the Netherlands. Solar technology is still an expensive prospect, so residents are rewarded discounts on taxes if they have solar panels installed on their homes. Businesses and organisations who are run as non-profit also benefit from government schemes.
In 11th and 10th position on the list are two projects which produce exactly the same amount of MW. Both Middelburg and Lange Runde produce exactly 14 MW. Next on the list come the fully functional Andijk and Groene Hoek both operating at 15MW. Slightly above them with 15,50MW is the Veendam project.
The top 6 projects show a significant increase in their MW outputs. Indeed, there is a sharp increase between each of the top 6 until we reach the Midden-Groningen set up.
Number 6 in the list is the Shell Moerdijk offering 27MW of output. Above this in number 5 is the operational project called Sunport Delfzijl (30MW). Next on the list is the Ooltgensplaat boasting 40MW of output from 136,000 solar panels. Into the top 3 projects where we find Budel with 170,000 land based solar panels creating 44MW of power. The top two have been mentioned previously and are the Scaldia (number 2) and Midden-Groningen. Scaldia produces a massive 54,50 MW. This is nothing compared to the largest solar project to date, Midden-Groningen, which produces 103,00 MW of solar energy. “These huge projects are beginning to show significant differences in the energy sources being consumed. Last year, over 6% of the Netherlands electrical energy was produced from solar. They are well on their way to achieving a rate of 16% renewable energy by the year 2023” says Kate Huddy, a project manager at Essay Roo and Lia Help.
The Netherlands currently has the unwanted status as one of the largest gas producers in Europe. In fact, 3 years ago 42% of their primary energy supply was through natural gases. This explains the efforts they are making in the renewable energy systems. If fossil fuels ran out tomorrow, the Netherlands would struggle to power themselves.
Aside from solar panel-based sites, the Netherlands experimented with a solar powered cycle lane named SolaRoad. This was based in Krommenie, a small town based in North Holland. The theory behind this project was to power streetlights and traffic lights from solar panels within the cycle paths. Long term, this project is potentially going to be used to power people’s homes. It is hoped by the development team that one fifth of the roads in the Netherlands could be powered in such a way. Being the first town in the world to trial this technology is a real thrill for the residents of Krommenie.
Another way that they are moving towards renewable energy is through public transport. In fact, if you visit Tilburg, you will find a completely solar powered bus station. Similarly, you will find a completely solar powered train station in Delft.
Although the Netherlands are at the wrong end of some statistics in terms of fossil fuel consumptions, they are extremely well placed to reverse this trend. They are one of the leading nations in terms of research and facilities. They also have one of the largest offshore wind farms in Europe. As a country they are clearly moving in the right direction and they clearly have to based on their gas consumption along.
Such is the importance of this shift, there are more companies and businesses becoming involved in projects across the country. Solar panel suppling has not been dominated by one company which helps to keep prices of installation competitive for residents and business owners alike. In terms of site ownerships, this is also split between different companies with Groenleven being the most prominent owner. It is not just solar owners who are revitalising the Netherlands sustainability charge, distribution companies are also keen to be involved. Tesla, Nissan and Wehkamp are showing keen interests in the solar projects. With so many companies from within the Netherlands becoming involved, it is sending a message to other countries that they are leading the way. So much so that foreign investors are coming to the Netherlands to invest and become involved. The major barrier to the Dutch becoming much more energy efficient and greener is cost. The cost to set up the projects and the cost involved in linking them to the grid. Once these are addressed fully, then this country should lose the unwanted title of largest fossil fuel consumer.