Spectacular Large-Scale Solar Growth In The Netherlands, Finally

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As I already wrote not too long ago, Dutch solar is booming right now. Parties involved have reported sales increases up to 100% in the first half of 2015 compared to 2014. Thanks is primarily due to a generous net metering system and the faith of the public that these policies will not be adjusted to their disadvantage soon.

netherlandsSolar panels are mostly being sold to individuals who put them on their own roofs. Large-scale solar is very rare in the Netherlands currently. A good illustration is the top 3 largest photovoltaic power plants the country has at the moment. In the #1 spot for over a decade, there is ‘de Floriade,’ a vast building on which 2.3 MW of solar power capacity has been installed. It was constructed in 2002 and has sadly managed to keep this #1 position for 13 years now. Finally, though, this week, a 2.5 MW plant on the roof of webshop Wehkamp in the town of Zwolle opened, ultimately dethroning the ‘Floriade’ plant. The third place is for ‘Solarpark Azewijn’ with 1.8 MW, and what was formerly the third place was ‘Venco Campus,’ with 1.6 MW.

So, obviously, solar power plants are not a huge thing in the Netherlands. The very densely populated country just doesn’t seem willing to use its precious land for generating power with photovoltaics, which might be fair considering the enormous number of roofs that are still available to expand the country’s solar generation capacity. Another, probably much more important factor, is subsidy. The Dutch government created a subsidy program called SDE+, which focuses on larger renewable energy projects. In the past, most money from this program went to wind power and biomass. Therefore, there was barely any subsidy left for large-scale solar power generation, preventing many projects from actually getting realized.

But recently, this has changed. The subsidy has been reorganized and is being distributed better now. The chances of getting government money for your solar project have improved, which is starting to make a tremendous impact on the solar sector. The largest Dutch solar power plant today might have a capacity of barely over 2 MW, but the largest one that is currently proposed has a capacity 15 times bigger! This project, which will be located near Delfzijl, will consist of 120,000 solar panels which will turn 30 hectares of land into a 30 MW solar power plant, enough to power 7,500 to 8,000 households. And there is much more in the pipeline. One example is a project near the town of Leek, where a solar farm of 15 MW has been proposed. Another example is a 6 MW project on the Island of Ameland, on which construction will start this month, or a 6 MW facility that is planned for construction near the town of Marum. There’s also the proposal for a 27.6 MW plant near the town of Veendam, a 10.8 MW plant near the town of Emmen, an even larger solar farm near Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, and many, many more.

Although these project are not that big compared to developments in the US or China, for example, they are considerable projects for a country that, till now, basically hadn’t any decent solar power plants at all. It shows that solar is really going to play an important role in fulfilling our energy needs, and has gradually evolved from just a green icon to something that seriously contributes to a cleaner future.

Image: rooftop solar in the Netherlands, via Shutterstock

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