The Netherlands has become Europe’s per-capita solar powerhouse, with an average of two solar panels per inhabitant and an installed capacity of more than 1 kilowatt per person. The country has more than 48 million solar panels installed, and it continues to find innovative places to put new renewable energy capacity. Solar developers and analysts attribute this expansion to a huge drop in equipment prices, an effective energy subsidy scheme, and ambitious government targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Netherlands is among the most densely populated countries in Europe, and its farmland is among the most expensive in the EU. To find space for solar plans, solar firms have had to be inventive. They have put solar on car parks, commercial lakes, sheep grazing fields, strawberry farms, disused churches, train stations, and airfields.

“We have to be innovative and creative so we can produce the electricity the Netherlands needs to go green,” said Bernd Nijen Twilhaar, a coordinator at Dutch solar developer Solarfields.

One of the most striking examples of the Netherlands’ innovation is the floating solar farms installed on man-made lakes. Nearly 20% of the country’s surface is water, and solar power developers have taken advantage of this by installing farms on these lakes. GroenLeven, a Dutch solar power company, has installed more than 500,000 solar panels on Dutch waters, leaving the Netherlands behind only China globally in such siting. BayWa r.e., a German renewable energy company that acquired GroenLeven in 2018, has been inspired by the Dutch example and is now rolling out more floating solar sites in European countries such as Belgium, Austria, and France.

Another innovative example is the landfill in Armhoede, which is now covered with 23,000 solar panels. The array, which can produce up to 8.9 megawatts of power, generates enough electricity for about 2,500 households. Dutch solar developer TPSolar opened the site in mid-2020, and it reflects the country’s broader drive to find innovative places to put new renewable energy capacity.

The Dutch government has enshrined climate targets like its renewable energy goal into law, vowed to limit onshore gas and oil drilling, and boosted green spending generally. The nation’s 2022 renewable energy budget was €13 billion. The government aims to make 70% of its electricity renewable by 2030, mainly through expanding solar and wind power capacity.

Dutch firms are also looking for ways to make solar plants work alongside agricultural production. One project involves growing strawberries and raspberries below a solar panel roof, replacing the plastic cover traditionally used by farmers. Another project is a solar farm that can coexist with sheep farming. Sheep are allowed to graze in the solar farm, keeping the grass short, and thus reducing the maintenance cost of the solar panels.

The Netherlands’ net metering system, set up in 2004, allows households with solar panels to offset their green electricity production against their consumption. Now, more than two million homes generate renewable power, according to the energy ministry. The proportion of electricity from solar was the highest generated in the EU, at 14%, according to Ember Climate, a consultancy group. The Netherlands generated 1% of its electricity from solar farms in 2015; last year, that number jumped to 14%. This surge in solar energy has helped the country cut its reliance on Russia, following its invasion of Ukraine.

In conclusion, the Netherlands has set a remarkable example for the rest of the world by choosing to invest in multiple ways of using solar power and becoming energy independent. As we face the urgent challenge of climate change, it is essential that more nations adopt similar measures and transition towards renewable energy. By doing so, we can not only combat the threat of climate change but also create a sustainable future for generations to come.

If you are interested in taking your first step towards solar energy, reach out to Staten Solar. With our expertise and commitment to excellence, we can help you make the switch to clean energy and contribute to a greener future.

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