So clearly my intentions to keep a daily blog of my trip were in vain. The forces were against my intentions, though. Every day we would head out around 8/830am and trek our way through a day of meetings and traveling until 7/730p; whereupon we arrive at my only reliable source of internet on the trip, our hotel for the night, so that we can be unleashed upon our unwitting email inboxes, full of undigested content, until 8pm; and henceforth make our way to the chosen restaurant for the evening to sit through a multi-hour dinner punctuated by long periods of looking furtively towards the kitchen for the next course, apparently the way the Dutch (waiters) prefer it. [Full disclosure – my hotels and meals were paid for by the Dutch gov’t, along with my plane ticket.] By the time we were back at the hotel it would be nigh upon 11pm, and all of us, excepting a couple amazingly energetic guys still up for a beer, would be exhausted. Someone said the program architects do this on purpose so that the journalists are so tired at the end of the day they don’t go out and potentially get into trouble. Well apparently it also prevents them from getting any real writing done during the trip. Though Thursday and Friday I also joined those two amazingly energetic guys for going out, so that Friday morning I was perhaps more zombie-like than when I arrived jet-lagged in the country. Yes, I am one of those people who enjoys/carves out of a rock besieged by fire-breathing dragons and ax-wielding trolls 7-8 hours of sleep on a regular basis.
Here is the full list of cities we traveled to over the course of five days: Amsterdam, Breukelen, Ijmuiden, Purmerend, Petten, Groningen, Meppel, Zwolle, Apeldoorn, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, The Hague, Rozenburg, and then back to Amsterdam.
MisterGreen. Fast charging station for electric vehicles. The one we visited was behind a Shell gas station. Perhaps one day it will take over that gas station. Mr. Green plans to roll out 25 stations across the Netherlands in the next year. Got to ride around in a Tesla after the talk.
Windcat Worksboats. They are a provider of boats that can dock right up to an offshore wind turbine and allow crew to access the wind turbines. They are the only company that makes boats that specialize in docking at offshore wind turbines; other companies simply repurpose existing boats. They have a relatively simple method: a rubbery buffer at the front of the boat acts as a hinge when the boat is accelerated into the stem of the wind turbine. They also gave us each a tin of some delicious gooey biscuits, which I think are called stroopwafels.
City heating Purmerend (SVP). SVP provides heating generated from wood chips. We toured their factory and it was very cool (plan to post pics later). In one area it is just a massive storage space with an ocean of wood chips. They service their 25,000 customers with 80% renewable heat. Their office/factory also had a very cool design based on wood/trees/logs.
Energy Research Center of the Netherlands. Met with Professor Wim Sinke, who manages project development in solar energy. According to Sinke, Dutch solar panel technology is a leader in the world. Almost sixty percent of solar panels across the globe contain some aspect of ECN technology. Not a government institution though, actually a private one. Is there currently an oversupply of solar panels across the globe, especially from China? Yes but Sinke hopes it will end next year. Only place so far that we had to show our passports and get a badge, with an order not to take pics – the center used to focus on nuclear technology. They (the security guards) were probably being a bit overly cagey, the PR guy with us said pics were fine if he was around.
Target Holding. We met them at the University of Groningen. Target Holding is a private-public partnership that uses innovative analysis and search methods for getting more out of big data. They’re using data from the largest existing smart grid in Austin TX, developed by Pecan Street Research Institute. I asked them if they knew about Bidgely, whose CEO I interviewed a couple months ago at the Cleantech Forum. They said they did, and that one of the differences between them is that Target Holding is coming from big big data and applying their techniques to a smaller dataset, while Bidgely comes from small data, and wants to scale up.
I-NRG. They have built a energy management system called I-CE that provides real-time and regular insight on overall energy consumption, both for individuals and companies. We met in a glass conference room on top of a small narrow, trailer-like office space. It was cool.
Hybrid heating in Meppel – We went to the city of Meppel to learn about their hybrid heating program. A new district of 444 homes will all be outfitted with a new hybrid heat system that combines biogas, heat from the soil and effluent. The houses are comparably priced to regular houses.
Smart Residence in Zwolle – We visited someone’s “smart” home in the city of Zwolle. Dutch design is so clean and industrial. We checked out his heating system and the energy efficiency/monitoring measures the house includes. Amenities: solar panels, smart a/c and heating, smart washing machine that can be programmed to start when energy costs are lowest, triple glass windows, water heat recovery. All for about 170K Euros.
Train station in Apeldoorn – Went to a train station. The train station wants to use brake energy from the trains to power electric buses. Not sure how feasible their business plan is judging from what they told us, but they have plenty of partners on board. Crowds of people getting on/off the trains peered at us curiously as we peered curiously at the brakes of the trains and convened in one of the enclosed glass seating areas for our meeting.
Ok that is all for now, as this blog post would be too long if I included descriptions for Days 4 & 5/I see flame throwing porcupines and Dumbledore’s army encroaching on my sleep. Will include in another post.