Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Solar Park Midden Groningen

Largest solar park “Midden Groningen” in the Benelux completed. Size: 140 soccer fields. Capacity: 103 MW. Location, surprise, surprise, in the middle of the Groningen province.

Yesterday on the Dutch news it was reported that some 40 large solar parks are under construction or in the planning phase in the Netherlands.

A point of criticism is that these solar arrays occupy a lot of valuable agricultural land. Yet it is estimated that by 2050, after completion of the renewable energy transition, merely 0.5% of all arable land will be covered with solar panels. Lots of farmers are interested in solar panels on their land, because they have higher returns than crops in many cases. Yet it is urged to aim at dual-use of land, by lifting the panels, so that life stock can graze below them.

Grid-operator TenneT has warned that the grid in its current state is hardly coping with all these new renewable energy projects and that it is forced to invest 12 billion euro in the coming 10 years to prepare the grid for 7 million new solar panels, for every Dutch household one panel. Several solar parks cannot be connected to the grid because of capacity limitations.

[] – Project site
[] – Detailed solar project overview in the Netherlands
[] – Werken aan een duurzame toekomst met zonneparken
[] – Tennet breidt stroomnet uit voor 7 miljoen zonnepanelen
[] – Zonnepark 103 MWp Midden Groningen is eind 2019 gereed
[] – Vermogen zonnepanelen meer dan de helft toegenomen

In 2018 total installed solar capacity in the Netherlands increased with 1.5 GW to 4.4 GW peak.
Total average electricity consumption: 13 GW.
Total installed electricity capacity from all sources: 29 GW.

Under Dutch circumstances the peak-Watt number needs to be divided by 10 to arrive at 24/7/365 average power.
In other words, the currently installed 4.4 GW peak means 0.44 GW average power. If we assume a renewable energy base of 50-50 wind-solar by 2050 and additionally assume a doubling of the electricity production to cover for all energy requirements, including transport and space heating, than the Netherlands will need 26 GW electricity on average. That would be 13 GW solar on average or 130 GW peak. Spread out over 30 years that would be 4.3 GW peak increase per year, rather than the 1.5 GW the Netherlands had in 2018.

It remains to be seen if it is not cheaper for the densely populated Netherlands to be satisfied with, say, 50% local solar production and import the rest from desert areas, where labor and soil are cheap and abundant and solar conditions far better than in the Netherlands. For that to happen, the energy storage problem needs to be solved first, before large quantities of hydrogen or one of its many derivatives, will arrive by oil-tanker, err… make that hydrogen-tanker in Rotterdam harbor and fuel retrofitted conventional fossil fuel power stations.

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