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Published on September 8th, 2015 | by Rogier van Rooij


Spectacular Large-Scale Solar Growth In The Netherlands, Finally

September 8th, 2015 by  

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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About the Author

Optimistic, eager to learn and strongly committed to society's wellbeing, Rogier van Rooij wants to share with you the latest cleantech developments, focussing on Western Europe. After graduating cum laude from high school, Rogier is currently an honours student at University College Utrecht in the Netherlands.

  • Wonderful news. Thanks for reporting on it, Rogier.

  • Matt

    They have very hard rules about the green heart of Holland, all land between cities. But they have a tons of roofs, and unlike New Amsterdam (New York) most are under 10 stories (even 5). It is based on the land.

  • Frank

    These guys have a lot of wind power, and solar helps fill in the summer production and provides some peaking power. The production of the two tend to complement each other, so it’s good to see.

  • JamesWimberley

    Another country moves into the ever-lengthening list of those with a significant solar sector. This all makes the global market a lot less volatile. Japan may be heading for a crunch, and the UK certainly is – but these are offset by many other markets, from Honduras to Thailand. The policy shocks are uncorrelated, and good news balances out bad. The bad news is that the statistics get less reliable all the time. You could trust the German data implicitly, when all they had was a simple FIT. Dutch or American rooftop? African offgrid? Guesswork.

  • CoenP

    40 acres of land? Looks like PV is competing with food. I fear a long term negative effect on the price of a portion Patates Frites from Groningen.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      Actually, vertical farming does not require significant land use. When solar and wind energy gets dominant, vertical farming is very good method to dump the intermittent surplus production of renewable electricity.

    • Farming vegan foods instead of using animal agriculture also reduces the food growing footprint. There should be plenty of space for solar.

  • Koenraad Coel

    I’m from Belgium. Being Netherland’s southern neighbour I often hear people say that solar isn’t a viable option for us, because we don’t get enough sunshine around here for it to be cost efficient.
    Does anybody know if that’s true?

    • eveee

      Does Netherlands get less sun than Germany? Don’t think so, but lets look.

      I don’t see much difference. Germany does fine with that. Netherlands should do just as well.

      • Termin8r

        Even though most Dutchmen are aware of how viable solar energy is in the Netherlands (many residential roofs are covered in panels already), there is still a lot of ignorance. Then there’s the national sport of complaining: in the short term, people prefer to complain about high energy costs, rather than do something about it which will lower their costs in the long term.

        • eveee

          The old curse the darkness or light a candle dilemma, yes?

        • JamesWimberley

          Social cohesion and strong community norms work both ways. It’s harder to get started, because at first it’s Not Done. But once you do, the norms slowly shift and work for solar. Look at that deadbeat who won’t cycle and has no panels!

    • mike_dyke

      I’m from Bournemouth on the south coast of the UK which is roughly the same latitude as Belgium and I’ve got a 4kWp PV on my roof facing roughly E/W (direct south is not available)
      It depends on what you mean by “cost Efficient”. In 3 years I’ve generated about 10,000 kWh (for effectively 0 charge apart from initial installation cost) and from adding the saving on the grid electricity bill to the current FiT payment I’m getting, I reckon that I’ll pay off the cost of installing the panels in about 3-4 years time.
      After that time, I’m getting free electricity until the panels give up which is probably over 25 years.

      Your circumstances will be different to mine, but if you take the long view, it works out to be a good buy.

  • JamesWimberley

    Given the importance of the land use issue, what are the Dutch rules on dual use of rural land? England puts sheep under solar panels, but the Netherlands have little tradition of this. For cows, you would have to mount the panels much higher. There are probably alternatives – some plants prefer or don’t mind partial shade.


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    • heinbloed

      Cows are kept in multi-story apartment blocks, are hardly seen outside.
      Robots milk them, antibiotic implants keep them ‘healthy’.
      Well, the commercial ones, the majority of Dutch diary cows doesn’t get sunlight.
      Goats and sheep are a hobby, to expensive to operate without subsidies.

      If we spot grazing animals in Holland then these are either heaily subsidised (keeping the race alive, landscape protection, tourist attraction, nature preservation,diversification etc.).
      Without a multitude of subsidies there wouldn’t be any farm animal kept for farming.
      Imagine food-prices doubling, the king would have to seek for asylum in Argentina. Ah, he’s married to Argentina, that’s ok then …….

  • Frank Energy

    Good job!

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