1 May 2013


Multinationals increasingly switch to solar energy

Oskomera Solar Power Solutions, the largest Dutch supplier of solar energy products, is currently installing the largest flat-roof solar photovoltaic system in the Netherlands for an international high-tech company’s Dutch subsidiary. A total of  6120 solar panels will deliver 1.6 megawatts of power to the company. “These companies are setting an example; they are promoting sustainable operations and want to generate a substantial amount of their own energy consumption,” says Oskomera director, Dennis Gieselaar.
His company has already installed solar panels on the roof of a branch of Albert Heijn (one of the largest Dutch supermarkets) in Houten and the roof of Stopera in Amsterdam. Many smaller companies are also making the switch to solar energy, as they are able to take advantage of several subsidy schemes at once, sometimes as much as tripling their profits. “We call those the sweet spots of the Netherlands,” states Gieselaar.

Dennis Gieselaar will be one of the speakers at The Solar Future: NL ’13 conference on 23 May in Eindhoven, where this trend will be explained. “Apart from the enormous growth of solar application in the residential sector, many entrepreneurs are discovering solar energy as an attractive and profitable power solution. Making a renewable contribution has become financially attractive and also presents valuable marketing opportunities,” says CEO Edwin Koot of Solarplaza, which is organizing the conference.

In many cases, installing solar panels is part of a company’s renewable strategy and future vision. Heineken, for example, is striving to be the greenest beer brewer in the world. In Zoeterwoude, the company is working with both wind power and hydropower, while in Den Bosch, the Wieckse Witte and Wieckse Rosé beer brewery has recently switched to solar energy. The brewer’s roof now boasts 3632 solar panels which generate an annual amount of 855,000 kilowatt hours’ worth of energy. That’s enough electricity for the entire brewing process. “These are elements that increase the sustainability of our breweries, which we are implementing globally,” states Hans Sjouke Koopal, Heineken spokesperson.

Tons Mosterd, one of the largest mustard producers in the Netherlands, started this movement thirteen years ago when it installed its first 52 solar panels in its factory, which supplied 5000 kilowatt hours of electricity. Today, owner and director Ton Schroër has acquired some 532 panels, which generate a combined amount of 48.000 kilowatt hours. This powers the entire factory, with enough electricity left over to charge two electric cars. Even then, a fair amount is supplied back to the grid. “I’m doing this from idealistic motives. I want to leave a clean world,” says Schroër, who gained nationwide fame when he used the commercial airtime he won through a national radio campaign to air a black screen, in order to promote awareness for energy saving.

IKEA is also focusing on sustainability, notably through its global ‘People & Planet Positive’ strategy. IKEA aims to make Zwolle its most sustainable branch. “Since it’s a new building, we can apply this principle to all elements of the entire building,” states spokesperson Mark Ogertschnig. The roof will not only house solar panels and windmills, but the branch will also be using groundwater for heating, cold storage and heat recovery.

The growing numbers of large companies switching to solar energy is not only visible in the Netherlands, but is a global phenomenon. In England, the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is now the largest producer of rooftop solar energy. 169 of its stores now possess a total of 69,500 solar panels providing 16 megawatts of solar power. Consequently, the chain has reduced its annual CO2 emission by 6800 tons and is making substantial savings on its electricity bill.
In the United States, supermarket chain Walmart will add 1000 solar systems to its current 200 by 2020. This will enable the company to produce an immense 7 terawatt hours of electricity – equivalent to 6 percent of the Netherland’s entire electricity consumption. Ultimately, the company aims to run solely on renewable energy in the future.



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