Sustainable energy in the Netherlands
The Climate Agreement aims to have 70% of all electricity and at least 27% of all energy (electricity, gas and heat) generated sustainably in the Netherlands by 2030. To achieve this objective, solar panels on roofs and projects on land are needed. Policy frameworks state that sun on the roof is preferred, but not all roofs can be filled. This may be because the roof is not suitable to support the weight of the panels or because building owners do not make their roof available. Even if we were to fill all suitable roofs, it would not be enough to meet our energy demand. We currently need both rooftop solar and land-based solar energy to achieve our sustainable goals.
The share of renewable energy in total energy consumption in 2022 was 14 percent. In the Netherlands, most sustainable energy is generated through biomass (48 percent in 2022). An advantage of biomass is that with certain types of biomass, existing installations can be used. A disadvantage of biomass is that biomass is not CO2 neutral because a large part of the wood pellets are made from wood from forests in, for example, North America or the Baltic States. It takes years before the CO2 released during combustion is reabsorbed by growing forests. The Dutch government does not subsidize this form of energy generation.
It is therefore important that (even) more sustainable energy is generated in the Netherlands through solar energy, wind energy and air and ground heat in order to achieve the agreements in the Climate Agreement. Solar energy currently still has a small share in the total energy supply in the Netherlands; in 2021 it supplied only 2.1 percent of our energy supply.
The Climate Agreement is part of Dutch climate policy. It is an agreement between many organizations and companies in the Netherlands to combat greenhouse gas emissions. This limits global warming. The Dutch government wants to emit 49% less CO2 in 2030 compared to 1990. By 2050 this should be 95% less. This is necessary to ensure that the temperature on earth does not rise further than one and a half degrees. With this temperature increase, the consequences of climate change still seem manageable. The Climate Agreement aims to have 70% of all electricity and at least 27% of all energy (electricity, gas and heat) generated sustainably in the Netherlands by 2030.
The RES is a document in which regions develop tasks for sustainable electricity generation. A region indicates which sustainable objectives it has and how it will achieve these. The installation of wind turbines, solar panels and electricity infrastructure changes the Dutch landscape and requires good cooperation between municipalities, water boards, province and stakeholders. In the Climate Agreement, the Netherlands is divided into 30 energy regions, each with its own energy strategy. In this way, each region contributes to the national objectives.
The most important energy sources in the Netherlands are still fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. However, these fuels have an important disadvantage: the combustion of these fuels is the main cause of global warming. In addition, the supply of fossil fuels is running out, which means that we will eventually have to get our energy from other sources.
The Netherlands is also dependent on foreign countries due to the import of gas, coal and oil. The current costs of energy supply for industry, mobility, the built environment and agriculture amount to approximately €30 billion per year. It is estimated that the increase in fossil fuel prices will increase costs to € 40 to 80 billion per year.
By generating sustainable energy ourselves, we can reduce our energy costs (and bills) and become independent of foreign energy.
General questions solar parks
The agreements (and permits) for solar parks are entered into for a period of 25 years. After these 25 years, the solar park will be cleaned up and the site will be given its old purpose/use back. The responsibility for this lies with the developer, we as TPSolar, ourselves.
On November 13, 2019, nine parties signed the Code of Conduct for Sun on Land: Greenpeace, Milieudefensie, Natuur & Milieu, the Nature and Environmental Federations, Natuurmonumenten, the Bird Protection Society, NLVOW, Energie Samen, and Holland Solar. Holland Solar is the trade association for solar energy to which TPSolar is a member. It is the first time that organizations with diverse interests have come together to a code of conduct on onshore solar. In this code, all organizations involved acknowledge that solar on land is necessary to achieve the climate objectives. Broad support is also expressed for the development of solar energy projects, provided that these initiatives are realized in accordance with the code of conduct. For example, the code contains regulations that ensure that local residents are properly involved, that solar parks offer added value to natural values and that over time the original land use can return. TPSolar attended several meetings of the trade association that contributed to the preparation of this code of conduct. The basic principles established are not new to us as a company and are already in line with what we have already done when developing our initiatives.
The Netherlands wants to generate its own energy in a sustainable way. Space is needed to generate our own sustainable energy. In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, this space is scarce. After solar panels on roofs, we in the Netherlands are looking at solar energy on vacant lots, landfills and roadsides along infrastructure. This preferred order of solar panels at locations in the Netherlands is also called the solar ladder.
For the time being, all these spaces are not sufficient to meet our energy demand. Sun on agricultural land is necessary. We also need to put the use of agricultural land in perspective. The Netherlands consist of 1.8 million hectares farmland, used for agriculture. This is about two thirds of the total land surface. The Netherlands is the largest agricultural exporter in the world after the US. We export approximately three quarters of the meat and dairy we produce here abroad.
Currently, 0.12 percent of those farmlands is used for (temporary) solar parks. For the energy transition, it is currently estimated that a 0.8 percent of the current agricultural area should be used for solar parks. This can be found in the research of Kadaster, which is here.
Investing in sustainable energy is a big challenge. Not all sustainable energy systems are yet profitable. To reduce CO2 emissions and achieve climate goals, the government wants to encourage the use of these techniques. That is why the government reimburses that part of the technology that is not yet profitable over a longer period. The SDE++ subsidy is intended for companies and institutions with a large-scale consumer connection. The government determines the budget for SDE subsidies. The subsidy per KWh generated decreases every year. The SDE++ subsidy pays out an amount per KWh generated for 15 years. The amount of the SDE++ contribution therefore also depends on energy price developments.
The intended location is tested by TPSolar with a location analysis. The current policy of the municipalities and provinces and the so-called search areas from the Regional Energy Strategy (RES) are examined. In addition, a location analysis takes into account, among other things, the distance to homes, soil properties, size of the plot, distance to the grid connection and the current use of the plot.
A solar park is a piece of land with solar panels on it that generate energy. The solar panels are placed on a scaffold, so they are well above the ground. This is for the sake of the highest yield and nature conservation. The solar panels supply power that is delivered to the electricity grid via an inverter and transformer. A green energy supplier then supplies the green energy to private individuals and companies.
Solar parks and nature
TPSolar is having a so-called quickscan Flora and Fauna carried out by an ecologist early on in the process. This study shows whether traces were found in and/or around the planning site that indicate the presence of (protected) species, and the design of the solar farm is adjusted accordingly.
TPSolar values biodiversity and therefore designs all its solar parks in a way that encourages biodiversity, such as appropriate ecological incorporation. A solar park generally has a space between the rows of panels of about 3 meters and a green space is always created between the fencing and the solar panels. In this way, TPSolar designs and develops solar parks that act as green infrastructure in addition to generating renewable energy. We have several solar park initiatives in which habitat has been created or enhanced for native endangered species such as: the wild bee, partridge, badger, garlic toad and grass snake. TPSolar also installs deer-friendly fencing so they can’t get their antlers stuck in it. Experience shows that a fenced solar park is little obstacle for big game (they can get around it just fine) and that planting around it actually adds value for big game. Small game will be able to pass through the park and the fencing through dozens of fauna passages.
In addition, TPSolar is a participant in the 5-year EcoCertified study with two solar parks. This study monitors the wildlife present at over 20 different solar parks throughout the Netherlands to improve or maintain biodiversity. For more information about this study: https://zoninlandschap.nl/projecten/i358/ecocertified-solar-parks
A 2019 study by Wageningen University & Research shows that solar parks have no adverse effects on soil quality, provided the solar parks are fitted in a certain way. The researchers argue that if there is enough space between the panels and the rows of solar panels, and also if vegetation is sown under the panels, the soil at a solar farm will not be affected. For this reason, TPSolar prefers to work with a south-oriented panel arrangement with spacious rows and appropriate height on its projects. This ensures that sufficient light, air and moisture can always get under the panels. This not only maintains the grass, but is also important for life in the soil which in turn affects soil quality.
In addition, TPSolar is a participant in the 5-year EcoCertified study with two solar parks. This study measures the best way to improve or maintain soil quality at over 20 different solar parks throughout the Netherlands. For more information about this study: https://zoninlandschap.nl/projecten/i358/ecocertified-solar-parks
The green will be managed for 25 years by the plant owners. It is also in our interest that the solar park is well managed. In general, TPSolar works without mowing robots, but with the help of sheep to match the ecological goals. In addition, we are always happy to work with local or regional parties when it comes to (green) management.
In addition, TPSolar is a participant in the 5-year EcoCertified study with two solar parks. This study measures the best way to manage solar parks to improve or maintain biodiversity and soil quality at over 20 different solar parks throughout the Netherlands. For example, it looks at (periodic) pressure grazing by sheep or mowing and removal. For more information about this research: https://zoninlandschap.nl/projecten/i358/ecocertified-solar-parks
Yes, periodic sheep grazing takes place on almost all of our solar farms. At a certain height, the sheep can move freely under the solar panels. The sheep do not damage the panels and the panels do not damage the sheep.
In addition, the sheep like to sit under the panels in the shade when the weather is warm and use the panels as shelter when it rains. The panels and fencing are ideal for the sheep to rub against.
Click here for more information about sheep grazing on our solar farms.
Technical background solar parks
Creating a solar park will not compete with local solar-on-roof setups. This is because sun-on-roof is on the low-voltage level of the grid management and the solar farm will be connected to the medium-voltage level. These levels are independent of each other. In addition, requests of upgrading existing connections of private individuals have priority over new connections such as a solar farm. If individuals or a company are forced to be disconnected by the grid operator, they will be compensated.
Fire in a solar park is rare, if at all. In the event of an emergency, which we do not assume, the project company is responsible.
TPSolar takes as many measures as possible to prevent a fire. As far as possible, components are placed at a sufficient distance to reduce the chances of a fire spreading, cabling is flame-extinguished and the solar panels contain very little flammable material. In addition, fire safety will be discussed with the local fire department (consider emergency exits, accessibility to the park, extinguishing water supply).
We are producing and using more and more renewable energy in the Netherlands. Consequently, the demand for space on the power grid is also growing explosively, causing the power grid to become (temporarily) full in more and more places. The national and regional governments, grid operators, ACM and market parties presented the National Grid Congestion Action Program in December 2022 to create more space on the power grid in every possible way. By increasing the capacity of the electricity grid more quickly, stimulating smarter use of the grid with new regulations and encouraging more flexible energy use. In these ways there is room for solar farms in the coming years and they will be used smarter and more flexibly on the power grid.
A low installation allows (too) little light, (rain)water and air to reach the soil and this is detrimental to biodiversity and vegetation, and deteriorates the quality of the soil. Furthermore, it is also detrimental to any possibilities regarding dual land use and risky at high water levels. A low arrangement is also detrimental to ideal generation. A certain angle of inclination relative to the sun is needed to maximize output per panel.
A solar farm is an unsupervised electrical installation and thus must be shielded from (unintentional) touch by people (for example, children playing). Also, the installation has a high value and thus must be somewhat protected from vandalism and theft. Both the law and insurance companies therefore have minimum requirements for this shielding, which can best be completed with fencing. This fencing can be filled in in different ways, for example in a natural color green or in the form of a natural fence. It can also be considered whether the fencing can be integrated with the landscaping.
The solar panels do not produce any noise. The only parts of the solar farm that might make noise are the transformer or inverter stations, which buzz very gently, especially in humid weather. Acoustic measurements show that the noise produced at 1 meter distance is between 50 and 60dB. This is roughly comparable to the sound of a refrigerator turning on. This sound is no longer audible at a few meters distance. The transformer stations will be placed as centrally as possible on the solar farm. At the edge of the solar farm, the noise will have been completely absorbed into the background noise, and will no longer be measurable. The solar park will have a negligible impact on noise levels.
The light must reach the solar cells as much as possible to generate energy. The solar panels are made with glass plates which are applied with an anti-reflective coating. In this way, more than 96% of the light is captured. The remainder of sunlight that reflects is diffusely reflected toward the sky in both summer and winter. Nearby residents of solar parks will not be bothered by the glare from the panels. An important reference is a field test at TPSolar’s first solar farm in Uden, next to the Volkel military airbase. Through multiple test flights – under different (weather) conditions – the Ministry of Defense has found that no annoying glare occurs at any angle.
Participation process with solar parks
Financial participation is co-investing in and/or experiencing the benefit of the park’s revenues. There are various forms of financial participation, namely co-investment via an investment platform or 50% local ownership, local power purchase from the solar park, a solar-on-roof offering, local employment, or the annual deposit of an amount into an environment fund/sustainability fund for the area.
The Climate Agreement describes obtaining 50% local ownership as an important variant of financial participation. In this way the local environment (possibly through an energy cooperative) can receive part of the revenues, but also the risk, of the solar park by means of shares.
How financial participation is designed for the solar farm in your neighborhood depends on the environment. Local residents have a choice in this respect. Please feel free to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have an idea for the details of financial participation in the solar park initiative in your neighborhood.
Plan participation is TPSolar’s first option of participation process. Plan participation allows local residents to participate in the planning, design, layout, management and maintenance of a solar farm. Local residents are informed through information on the website, social media and in newsletters. In addition, local residents are involved through active information provision, such as at residents’ meetings, kitchen table discussions and specially set up working groups.
Municipal participation policies describe a participation process. For example, a developer must go through an intensive and careful process to include local residents as much as possible in the development a solar farm. The participation process consists of two steps: plan participation and financial participation.
In addition, TPSolar is always looking for local or regional parties to enter into a long-term partnership for, among other things, the management of the solar farm.
Local involvement with solar parks
An environment, area or sustainability fund is a fund for local residents within the area of influence, so that the money flows back to these residents. The idea here is that part of the profits are allocated to the fund annually by the shareholder(s) of the solar park. The fund is for the local environment and can be used for projects aimed at the livability of the immediate vicinity of a solar park, for area-enhancing measures or for making the built environment more sustainable.
The Climate Agreement includes agreements on participation in renewable energy projects. One of the agreements included is that wind and solar on land projects will aim for 50% local ownership. About the design, agreements and obligations about the participation processes from the Climate Accord, several parties jointly prepared an explanatory note in early May. The industry organizations involved are Energie Samen, the Nature and Environment Federations, the Dutch Sustainable Energy Association, Holland Solar and NWEA. The explanatory note contains several answers to the most frequently heard questions and misunderstandings about the participation agreements from the Climate Agreement.
The link to the explanatory note: https://hollandsolar.nl/uploads/files/20200430-qena-participatie-def.pdf
In all our projects, we look for long-term collaborations with local or regional parties for the practical and technical management of our solar parks. This could include sheep farming, green management, fencing, etc. Feel free to contact us if you think you can help us with a project in your area at: email@example.com.
Want to learn more about how TPSolar works with local parties? Then watch this video: https://youtu.be/kb2rPmbO7Is?si=nhds11n5vrxTRoG1