Poland is slowly saying goodbye to its reputation as the dirty man of Europe

This is the first part of a series about the measures that Poland is taking against environmental pollution and global warming. Tomorrow, part two will be devoted to the transition to electric buses in public transport.

The sight of the Belchatów brown coal power station is both forbidding and impressive. A huge hole several tens of meters deep and kilometers wide stretches out in front of the power station. The plant spits out thick clouds of smoke day and night. Everything in the hole is dead. Except for the gigantic trucks that are constantly driving back and forth between the quarry and the power station. The area around Belchatów is regularly shrouded in mist and the smell around the power station intensifies in winter thanks to the numerous households in the area that are still kept warm with old-fashioned multi-burners.

It should come as no surprise that the power station in Belchatów was regularly criticized at the climate summit in Katowice last year. Belchatów is the world’s largest brown coal power station. And it is the greatest, single emitter of carbon dioxide in the EU, with more than 38 million tonnes of CO2 per year. It is also one of the reasons why Poland is often called the dirty man of Europe.

The fact that Poland depends on coal and brown coal for almost 80% of its electricity is a thorn in the side of Brussels. Even worse, it is felt that Warsaw is also not prepared to abandon its dependence on coal. The furthest Poland has been willing to go so far, is to reduce its dependence on coal by roughly 50% by 2040. The government deems anything more than that to be too expensive. Poland therefore has declined to sign the EU protocol on the supply of CO2-neutral energy by 2050. Just as the Czech Republic, Estonia and Hungary are also refusing.

The Netherlands emits more CO2 than Poland

This intractable attitude towards Brussels could give the impression that nothing at all is happening in Poland with regard to improving the environment. But that is not true. In a series devoted to environmental and climate measures, Innovation Origins will show that Poland is even ahead of the rest of Europe in some respects.

Read also: Coal Curtain replaces the Iron Curtain

For a start, the figures reveal that we, as The Netherlands, ought to be cautious in our criticism. Because of its high energy consumption per capita, The Netherlands emits more CO2 than Poland does. In 2017, Poland accounted for 319 million tonnes and the Netherlands for 175 million tonnes. In per capita terms, that amounted to 8.4 tonnes of CO2 per Polish person and more than 10 tonnes for one Dutch person. So the situation in Poland is not that dire after all.

When multi-burners are used during winter, nitrogen oxide emissions rise in Polish villages and towns, particularly in the south. Photo Maurits Kuypers

Also, the right-wing populist government PiS party seems to be realizing that doing nothing about climate policy is no longer an option either. For example, the government recently announced that with Michal Kurtyka, a special minister for climate issues has been appointed. While the conservative pro-coal minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski has since vanished from the cabinet.

And last week, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in Parliament: “Conventional energy sources will remain important for our energy system for a long time to come, but the situation is changing. There was a time when we couldn’t afford to invest in renewable energy sources. But now we can’t afford not to invest in them.”

Societal change

But the most important thing is that Polish society is changing. Nature and environmental policies are becoming increasingly important. The most noticeable change over the last few years was the increase in the number of protests against the extremely high levels of fine particles (smog) during winter months.

Last year, the European Environment Agency (EEA) estimated that 44,000 people in Poland die prematurely from poor air quality every year. Living in Warsaw for a year would be equivalent to smoking 1000 cigarettes. No wonder that the purchase of air masks was one of the biggest sales successes last year.

The response to this criticism is still a little slow at government level. The scheme to replace old multi-burners in houses with new ones is going rather sluggishly. Even though on paper as much as €25 billion has been made available for it.

Smog cities take steps towards banning multi-burners

The situation is different in municipalities and towns. In Krakow (long known as smog city number 1) multi-burners that emit too many fine particles and nitrogen oxide were banned this year. Other cities are also taking steps in this direction. Most experts therefore expect that the problem with the old polluting multi-burners – by far the most important cause of fine particles – should be solved in the not too distant future.

Another reason for optimism about air quality is the rapid deployment of electric buses. According to Solaris Bus & Coach (a local manufacturer of buses and trams from Bolechowo, a suburb in Poznan), there are already 16 cities with battery-operated buses. This is a win-win situation for Poland, as most of the E-buses come from their home country. In addition to Solaris, electric buses are also being manufactured in Poland by Volvo, Scania, MAN and Rafako E-Bus.

The Solaris factory, Photo Maurits Kuypers

Companies for a cleaner environment

Companies aren’t just standing still either. Press agency Reuters reported this month that 20 major companies have signed up to the EU targets for CO2 neutrality by 2050. In defiance of the Warsaw government. Among them are the PKN Orlen refinery and PKO Bank Polski, both state-owned. The Polish subsidiary of the ING Bank has also signed. As have subsidiaries of the French company Orange (telecom) and the German company Innogy (chemistry).

“Of course, we will not achieve the goal of climate neutrality overnight. However, it is important that we take immediate action,” says the Charter of the 20 companies. Deputy Director of ING Bank Śląski Joanna Erdman told Reuters that signing this document is a very natural step for the bank. ING was also one of the first lenders who refused to continue financing new coal projects.

Erdman: “At the moment, the discussion in Poland revolves around whether we ought to endorse the CO2 targets. When it should actually be about how we want to achieve that.”

As I said, this message from companies is slowly but surely beginning to resonate with the government in Warsaw. For instance, after parliamentary elections in October, the energy plan for 2040 has been partially amended in favor of the environment. For one thing, according to the old plans, all onshore windmills were supposed to disappear. That’s because they were considered too unsightly. Now the aim is to keep capacity at about the same level.

Onshore windmills are not very popular in Poland. Photo Expresselblag/Pixabay

Gigawatts on the rise

Warsaw wants to make a decisive leap forward as far as solar energy is concerned. This year, the 1 gigawatt threshold will be exceeded for the first time. A further 15 gigawatts will be needed over the coming 20 years. The VAT on solar panels has been reduced. And an incentive fund of € 235 million has been set up for private individuals as well.

The government foresees slightly slower development when it comes to offshore wind energy. Poland prefers to wait until this technology becomes cheaper before investing heavily in it. Expectations are that this will happen after 2025.

Lastly, Prime Minister Morawiecki sees an important role for “clean” nuclear energy as an alternative to coal. Poland is one of the few countries in Eastern Europe that does not yet have a nuclear power station. That will nevertheless have to change by 2033. Warsaw states that nuclear reactors are an important alternative to coal-fired power stations. This is because they are ‘adaptable’. Which basically means that they can be cranked up at night when the wind isn’t blowing. Or in winter when there is hardly any sun. That will ensure that there is never a shortage of electricity.

Independence from Russia

There is something that plays a role in the background to all these plans for 2040. And that’s the desire to become independent of energy from arch enemy Russia as soon as possible. Alongside nuclear energy, the import of liquid natural gas (LNG) serves as an alternative to Russian coal and gas.

The electricity plan for 2020 and 2040 currently looks like this:

The electricity plan for 2020 and 204020202040
Brown coal8,6 gigawatt3,4 gigawatt
Coal15,6 gigawatt7,6 gigawatt
Gas and cogeneration2,4 gigawatt12,4 gigawatt
Onshore windmills9,5 gigawatt9,8 gigawatt
Offshore windmills08 gigawatt
Solar panels1,3 gigawatt16 gigawatt
Nuclear energy04 gigawatt


Slush Helsinki is filled with entrepreneurs, researchers and investors, but hardly any politicians

Suzanne de Kok Selstad is the CEO of ‘Skape‘, a Norwegian start-up consulting organisation. She lives in Stavanger and is a first-time visitor of Slush, the annual innovation and Start-up festival in Helsinki. She writes about her experiences at “the World’s LeadingStart-up Event” for Innovation Origins. This is Day 2 of the event. You can read part 1 here.

We are several people from our county Rogaland attending Slush for different reasons. Trond Medhus, Opportunity Manager for Invest In Stavanger (Greater Stavanger Region) stated that “Slush is the place to be for meeting start-ups, investors and entrepreneurs. Since we are in a global market, we need to be out there getting inspired, listen to the entrepreneurial stories from different angles”. There is indeed no doubt that this is a place that allows us to look into the future – and a perfect place for valuable networking as well. We are meeting people with the brightest ideas, talents, students, investors and on-the-go we get insights on the future technological trends. Next year, we want to bring more start-ups from the Stavanger region over to Slush and use this conference as a place to inspire young entrepreneurs and give them valuable insights and network.

“Money is flowing in the start-up venues”

Cato Meling, head of conference at ONS, the second-largest energy conference in the world, mentions that “it has been an inspiring day at Slush with engaging speakers and interesting themes”. The State of European Tech 2019, which was presented today, essentially states that money is flowing in the start-up venues and there is a need for more women in tech. This positive vibe throughout the event is contagious and incredibly inspiring, and I will for sure be back next year.

“We need more women in tech”

Day two was also exciting, with different insightful themes. Again, we had to make a choice! Like yesterday, we heard people discussing the challenges about talents. But also, about the different demands of talents themselves. Do future talents want to live in big, expensive cities? Can climate changes create new business opportunities? What can we learn from history? Several interesting questions were raised, allowing us to think for ourselves and dwell on the complexity of the future.

Since we got the opportunity to cruise around Helsinki on an e-scooter yesterday, we had to listen to Fredrik Hjelm, Co-founder & CEO of Voi Technology and Lawrence Leuschner, CEO & Co-founder of TIER Mobility. They shared insights about how their companies work together with cities to change regulations. They challenge cities to rethink their transport system. Most cities today are dominated by cars. They, however, raise the question: do we really need two lanes for cars? Berlin is, for example, moving away from extra car lanes and Paris is implementing safety actions for bikers.

Skapes Rudolf Hansen and Suzanne de Kok Selstad on their e-scooters in Helsinki

Cities can also think about changing the rules. More tenders for e-scooters in one in town? A maximum number of providers? Limit a licence for maybe two or three years? Madrid has a tender of 15-17 companies for different parts of town. And how about safety? Most accidents are between cars and scooters, we need to rethink the way they interact. It is, however, rarely the case between scooters or scooter and pedestrians.

Build a culture

Personally, I enjoyed the session about people, we know that it is all about people, especially in the startup world. How important it is to build teams, onboard new members, integrate them, build a culture. Always think of diversity: it breathes better decision-making, offers different angles. Start the process of building a company culture early and include people around you in the process. And if you lead a team yourself, dare to be vulnerable. Dare to say I don’t know and ask somebody who does.

At the end of Day 2, we saw the finals for research pitching. When I heard about these researchers, It immediately felt really good. So many bright ideas for future challenges… 95 ideas, 8 final pitches, one winner! The winner of the grand prize, the 100,000 Euro Skolar Award grant, is Thomas Hausmaninger from the National Metrology Institute of Finland.

“This positive vibe throughout the event is contagious and incredibly inspiring”

I felt privileged being at Slush where there were so many people who have this positive energy of being part of creating something. We need entrepreneurs, we need researchers, we need investors. The group maybe lacking were the politicians.

Slush 2019 is finished. Now, on my way back to Norway, I feel inspired, filled with new knowledge and blessed with a whole new network. I’ll be back!

TU Eindhoven is bringing hydrogen as a source of energy for households one step closer

Vlag TU Eindhoven

A fridge-sized electrolyzer for each neighbourhood: this device stores all the energy from the solar panels on the roofs in the neighbourhood during the day as hydrogen. Underground gas pipes then transport hydrogen to the homes where the central heating boiler has been replaced by a fuel cell. This converts the stored hydrogen back into electricity. For Emiel Hensen, professor and dean of the Faculty of Chemical Technology at the Eindhoven University of Technology, this is more than just a dream. Thanks to an invention by his research group together with Chinese, Singaporean and Japanese researchers, Hensen has developed a catalyst that makes the storage of energy in hydrogen 20 times more effective.

Together with other Eindhoven researchers and a group of industrial partners from Brabant, Hensen is working on setting up an energy institute at the Eindhoven University of Technology to accelerate the development of this technology.

How does it work?

professor Emiel Hensen, Molecular Catalysis, inorganic materials chemistry, Scheikundige Technologie, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven

Catalysts accelerate chemical reactions, but the widely used metal platinum is scarce and expensive. Researchers have now developed an alternative with a 20times higher activity: a catalyst with hollow nanocages of an alloy of nickel and platinum. Hensen wants to use this new catalyst to develop a refrigerator-size electrolyzer of about 10 megawatts in the future. The results are published today * in the journal Science.

By 2050, the Dutch government aims to get almost all of the Netherlands’ energy requirements from sustainable sources, such as the sun or the wind. Because these energy sources are not available at all times, it is important to be able to store the generated energy. Given their low energy density, batteries are not suitable for storing very large amounts of energy. A better solution is chemical bonds, with hydrogen as the most obvious choice of gas. Using water, an electrolyzer converts (an excess of) electrical energy into hydrogen, which can be stored. At a later stage, a fuel cell does the opposite, converting the stored hydrogen back into electrical energy. Both technologies require a catalyst to drive the process.

The catalyst that helps with these conversions is – due to its high activity – mostly made of platinum. But platinum is very expensive and relatively scarce; a problem if we want to use electrolyzers and fuel cells on a large scale. TU/e catalysis professor, Emiel Hensen: “Fellow researchers from China, therefore, developed an alloy of platinum and nickel, which reduces costs and increases activity.” An effective catalyst has a high activity; it converts more water molecules into hydrogen every second. Hensen continues: “At TU/e, we investigated the influence of nickel on the key reaction steps and to this end we developed a computer model based on images from an electron microscope. With quantum chemical calculations, we were able to predict the activity of the new alloy, and we could understand why this new catalyst is so effective.”

Successfully tested

In addition to the other choice of metal, the researchers were also able to make significant changes to the morphology. The atoms in the catalyst have to bond with the water and/or oxygen molecules to be able to convert them. More binding sites will, therefore, lead to a higher activity. Hensen: “You want to make as much metal surface available as possible. The developed hollow nanocages can be accessed from the outside as well as from the inside. This creates a large surface area, allowing more material to react at the same time.” In addition, Hensen has demonstrated with quantum chemical calculations that the specific surface structures of the nanocages increase the activity even further.

After calculations in Hensen’s model, it turns out that the activity of both solutions combined is 20 times higher than that of the current platinum catalysts. The researchers have also found this result in experimental tests in a fuel cell. “An important criticism of a lot of fundamental work is that it does its thing in the lab, but when someone puts it in a real device, it often doesn’t work. We have shown that this new catalyst works in a real application.” The stability of a catalyst must be such that it can continue to work in a hydrogen car or house for years to come. The researchers, therefore, tested the catalyst for 50,000 ‘laps’ in the fuel cell and saw a negligible decrease in activity.

The possibilities for this new catalyst are manifold. Both in the form of the fuel cell and the reverse reaction in an electrolyzer. For example, fuel cells are used in hydrogen-powered cars while some hospitals already have emergency generators with hydrogen-powered fuel cells. An electrolyzer can be used, for example, on wind farms at sea or perhaps even next to every single wind turbine. Transporting hydrogen is much cheaper than transporting electricity.

Hensen’s dream goes further: “I hope that we will soon be able to install an electrolyzer in every neighbourhood. This refrigerator-sized device stores all the energy from the solar panels on the roofs in the neighbourhood during the daytime as hydrogen. The underground gas pipelines will transport hydrogen in future, and the domestic central heating boiler will be replaced by a fuel cell, the latter converting the stored hydrogen back into electricity. That’s how we can make the most of the sun.”

But for this to happen, the electrolyzer still needs to undergo considerable development. Together with other TU/e researchers and industrial partners from the Brabant region, Hensen is therefore involved in the start-up of the energy institute of TU Eindhoven. The aim is to scale up the current commercial electrolyzers to a refrigerator-size electrolyzer of about 10 megawatts.

* This research is published in Science on November 15th, with the title ‘Engineering Bunched Pt-Ni Alloy Nanocages for Efficient Oxygen Reduction in Practical Fuel Cells’.

Economical energy storage for the electric car of tomorrow

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden have developed a new production process which is aimed at future efficient and environmentally friendly battery production. They coat the electrodes of the energy storage cells with a dry film instead of liquid chemicals. This simplified process saves energy and eliminates toxic solvents. BroadBit Batteries, a Finnish company, is currently successfully putting the new IWS technology into practice.

Better and more cost-efficient production methods for energy storage are increasingly in demand, especially in Germany. All major automobile manufacturers have launched ambitious electric vehicle programs that will ensure a sharp rise in demand for batteries. So far, German companies have been purchasing the cells in Asia for this purpose. There are two main reasons driving this trend: Asian technology groups have many years of experience in the mass production of battery cells and a lot of energy is consumed in these processes. Production at locations with high electricity prices, such as Germany, is therefore extremely expensive.

It is exactly this fact that the Saxon Fraunhofer engineers want to change: “Our dry transfer coating process aims to significantly reduce the process costs in electrode coating”, emphasizes IWS project manager Benjamin Schumm. “Manufacturers are able to eliminate toxic and expensive solvents and save energy costs during the drying process. In addition, our technology also facilitates the use of electrode materials which are difficult or even impossible to process chemically in a liquid form.” But exactly these materials are needed for future batteries with higher energy density. “For all these reasons, we think that our technology can help to achieve internationally competitive battery cell production within Europe.”

A pilot plant in Finland

This potential has also been noticed by Fraunhofer’s Nordic partners: The Finnish battery company ‘BroadBit Batteries’ has commissioned a pilot plant in its Espoo factory which coats electrodes with dry electrode material instead of wet paste, as has been common in the industry up until now. BroadBit uses it to produce new types of sodium-ion batteries. “The demand for our technology is high, even in Germany,” Benjamin Schumm reports. On a laboratory scale, the IWS can already coat electrode foil with a remarkable production speed of several meters per minute. In this respect, the Dresden engineers are able to demonstrate the potential for transferring the technology to production scale.

Until now, cell producers have mostly coated their battery electrodes in a complex liquid chemical process. First, they mix the active materials, (which will later release the stored energy) with additives to create a paste. In this process, they also add organic solvents, which are expensive and usually toxic. In order to protect operators and the environment, elaborate precautions for occupational safety and reprocessing are required. Once the paste has been applied to the thin metal foils, another expensive step in the process begins: dozens of meter-long heating sections dry the coated films before they can be further processed. This drying procedure usually causes higher electricity costs.

Binding molecules form a cobweb

On the other hand, the latest film transfer technology for the dry electrode coating process operates without these ecologically damaging and expensive process steps. The IWS engineers mix their active material with metal-binding polymers. They process this dry mixture in a roll-to-roll process known as ‘calendar’. The sheer forces in this system tear entire molecular chains out of the binder polymers. These ‘fibrils’ join the electrode particles a bit like a spider web. This provides the electrode material with more stability. The result is a flexible dry electrode layer of material. In the next step, the calendar laminates the 100-micrometre thick film directly onto an aluminium foil, thereby creating the battery electrode.

“In this way, we are also able to process materials for new battery generations where classical processes fail,” says Benjamin Schumm. These include, for example, energy storage systems that use sulfur as the active material or solid-state batteries which employ ion-conducting solids instead of flammable liquid electrolytes. “These batteries will be able to store more energy within the same volume as today’s lithium-ion batteries.”

Top 10 Emerging Technologies (8): Safer Nuclear Reactors

World Economic Forum (WEF) asked a group of international technology experts to identify this year’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies. After soliciting nominations from additional experts around the globe, the group evaluated dozens of proposals according to a number of criteria. Do the suggested technologies have the potential to provide major benefits to societies and economies? Could they alter established ways of doing things? Are they likely to make significant inroads in the next several years? “Technologies that are emerging today will soon be shaping the world tomorrow and well into the future – with impacts to economies and to society at large”, said Mariette DiChristina, Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American, and chair of the Emerging Technologies Steering Committee. In our constant lookout for the origins of innovation, IO will present WEF’s top-10 emerging technologies in a 10-part series. Today: Safer nuclear reactors.

After part 10 has been published, the whole series can be found here

Controlling carbon in the atmosphere will require a mix of energy technologies. Normally, we tell you all about wind power and even more about solar energy, but solutions might also include nuclear reactors. They emit no carbon but are seen as risky because of a few major accidents. That risk could be greatly reduced.

Overheated Zirconium

Commercial reactors have used the same fuel for decades: small pellets of uranium dioxide stacked inside long cylindrical rods made of a zirconium alloy. Zirconium allows the neutrons generated from fission in the pellets to readily pass among the many rods submerged in water inside a reactor core, supporting a self-sustaining, heat-producing, nuclear reaction.

Trouble is, if the zirconium overheats, it can react with water and produce hydrogen, which can explode. That scenario fed two of the world’s worst reactor accidents: the 1979 potential explosion and partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in the United States; and the 2011 explosions and radiation release at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. (The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was caused by faulty reactor design and operation.)

Manufacturers such as Westinghouse Electric Company and Framatome are hastening the development of so-called accident-tolerant fuels that are less likely to overheat – and, if they do, will produce very little or no hydrogen. In some of the variations, the zirconium cladding is coated to minimize reactions. In others, zirconium and even the uranium dioxide are replaced with different materials. The new configurations could be slipped into existing reactors with little modification, so they could be phased in during the 2020s. Thorough in-core testing, which has begun, would have to prove successful and regulators would have to be satisfied. In a bonus, the new fuels could help plants run more efficiently, making nuclear power more cost-competitive – a significant motivation for manufacturers and electric utilities because natural gas, solar and wind energy are less expensive.

Lucrative markets

Although nuclear power has stalled in the US and is being phased out in Germany and elsewhere, Russia and China continue building. These markets could be lucrative for the manufacturers of these new fuels.

Russia is also deploying other safety measures; recent installations at home and abroad by the state-run company Rosatom have newer “passive” safety systems that can squelch overheating even if electrical power at the plant is lost and coolant cannot be actively circulated. Westinghouse and other companies have incorporated passive safety features into their updated designs as well.

Manufacturers are also experimenting with “fourth-generation” models that use liquid sodium or molten salt instead of water to transfer heat from fission, removing the possibility of dangerous hydrogen production. China reportedly intends to connect a demonstration helium-cooled reactor to its grid this year.

(Most of this article is drawn from the 2019 Top 10 Emerging Technologies report)

Tomorrow is Good: Making sustainable energy beautiful and desirable

We are the generation that switches from fossil energy to sustainable energy coming from sun, wind and various smaller energy sources. Technically a wonderful story, because for more than a billion years we can harvest hundreds of times more energy without upsetting our ecosystem, and soon it will be even cheaper as well. But because we need a much larger surface area for renewable energy than for fossil energy, renewable energy stands out much more. That’s why we have to think about how we can make renewable energy beautiful. Even more to the pointpeople shouldn’t see sustainability as something that is forced upon us but as something beneficial. In my opinion, the technicians and administrators who are currently setting the tone in sustainability are completely unaware of this. In this column, I would like to make a few crosses to start the discussion and to show that it can be done in a much nicer and more pleasant way.

Successful example: the electric car

A good example of sustainability that has been made beautiful and desirable is found in electric cars. When I started to make a case for that, the Think City was the state of the art, but although it was a very sustainable city car, few people thought it was beautiful or desirable. Then came the Tesla Roadster sports car and it became a completely different story. With the Tesla Model S and X the electric car grew up and Tesla showed that four-wheel drive and acceleration that a fossil sports car can’t match are relatively easy to achieve. And now there is hard felt jealousy towards people who drive such a beautiful and desirable electric car. Maybe in the future, it will even be a status symbol to have a car that charges itself with solar cells – like the Lightyear. Of course, the price of electric cars will be lower than that of fossil cars within a few years, but what Tesla understands well is that sustainability and cheapness are not enough to trigger mass sales quickly. If you want to achieve that, you have to make your products beautiful and desirable.

At the moment I am building a new house and it strikes me how traditional the building industry still is. My house uses a timber frame construction. Isovlas insulation has superior heat and moisture regulating properties and is pleasant to work with. Western red cedar cladding is beautiful to look at and does not need to be painted, which saves a lot of maintenance. Interior walls of wood can be painted or lacquered and you don’t need to plaster. I also think it’s cool that nature just makes that raw material for you with the help of sunlight and CO2. The more building material you use, the more CO2 you extract from the air. At first, I thought: that will be very expensive, but it’s actually cheaper – also because construction is faster – so why doesn’t everyone do that?


Example near the tipping point: sustainable construction

My roof is 1 large solar panel (they produce 3 times as much as I need for my house and electric car) and because the panels are completely black (without edges) and almost completely lying together it looks beautifully tight. Why do architects still talk to people about old-fashioned and price-increasing roof tiles?

Windows used to be something that took a lot of energy but with good triple glazing you can keep in 10 times as much heat as with single glazing. You also keep out twice as much energy but in the meantime, good triple glazing is energy positive on balance. My architect and contractor pointed out to me that you can apply large glass plates with new sealants that will last for decades relatively cheaply. So I have a huge borderless window on the north (where I have my view) and a large skylight on the roof. It looks really cool and in the winter it gives me extra warmth. Why do I see so little of it?

I love silence. That’s why I’m fed up with the grids next to the windows that allow sound to pass through your thick glass without hindrance. Of course, I also like to be energy efficient. That’s why I’m surprised that so few heat exchangers are used in new houses. They can (if they are properly installed) almost silently keep the air in your rooms fresh and more than 90% of the heat stays in your house.

At first, I was told that a water heat pump (with a pipe in the ground) was very expensive. But if you calculate how much you can save over the lifetime of the house and if you look at how low the mortgage interest rate is at the moment, then it is certainly a money maker for new houses. In addition, you don’t have ugly radiators but a pleasantly heated floor and in the summer (when the solar panels are working overtime) you can cool down without the help of ugly, noisy and energy-consuming air conditioning. What’s not to like?

I tell that not only because I’m proud of my energy-positive house that saves me money, but mainly because I hope that architects and contractors in the construction industry wake up. All those houses with just a few solar panels to meet the weak standard testify to a complete lack of vision and indicate that the construction should be put under more pressure. Furthermore, sustainable building should not only be presented with soulless words such as ‘sensible’ and ‘responsible’ but above all as beautiful and desirable. As far as I’m concerned, the pace of innovation in construction can be increased by a factor of ten!

“Sustainable building should not only be presented with soulless words such as ‘sensible’ and ‘responsible’ but above all as beautiful and desirable”

Next step: a beautiful and desirable energy system

Now we are faced with a more difficult task: how do you make the rest of the energy system attractive and desirable? I know people who like modern windmills and solar parks, but that’s a minority. So what to do?

I recently worked with a number of landscape architects on a model and a report in which we make Brabant switch to 100% sustainable energy. What struck me was how little the small single windmills in villages contribute to the energy supply. If everyone in a village loves it, of course, just keep on building them, but why don’t we do it mainly at sea? At sea we have plenty of space and it is good for marine life that nestles on the foundations of the windmills. And those enormous windmills also fit in well with the enormous scale that you see at sea. We shouldn’t talk all the time about the costs of the windmills at sea, but rather about how wonderfully beautiful and impressive they are. We should be just as proud of those gigantic towers at sea as we are of the Delta Works and the Afsluitdijk!

As far as putting windmills on land is concerned, you should also think of the wind pilots of companies like Kitepower and Ampyx power. They replace the clumsy tower of a traditional windmill with an invisible rope. What you see is a kind of large bird that rotates large slow eights high in the air. That aesthetic aspect of airborne wind energy should be in my opinion front and centre in marketing but it is hardly ever mentioned. (I have written a research proposal in which a psychologist will finally investigate this, if the proposal is accepted.) Instead, they only talk about the fact that it is cheaper, that you can easily take it to inhospitable areas and that you don’t need a foundation for wind at sea. It’s a shame because that doesn’t make it beautiful and desirable. Go to Tesla for advice, I’d say!

For optimal use of solar power, we already talked about the fact that a building should be designed from the beginning with a 100% sunroof (and where possible a solar facade as well) in a way that shows how beautiful that can be. Because the housing stock lasts a long time, we have to start doing the same for existing buildings: don’t put a few panels on it, but think about how you can turn the entire roof surface into a nice solar panel. As long as you would want to build solar fields, you could also do it a lot better. You can make panels that move with the sun (a bit like sunflowers) and with a bit of creativity, you can combine it with agriculture. As far as I’m concerned, it’s more beautiful than corn growing three metres high. And don’t forget, solar panels are also possible at sea.

Making new mobility desirable

That brings me back to the car. Because although the electric car is already halving its CO2 emissions and could reduce them by a factor of ten in the future, the electric car in fact is just as old-fashioned as the long-playing record. Recently I started working with Geert Kloppenburg and Walter Dresscher on smart mobility in the city and I was shocked. It seems to me that the industry is almost exclusively concerned with raking in as many billions as possible for more asphalt and more rail. Good models that look at door-to-door traffic are hardly used. Introducing autonomous trains is relatively easy, but because the sector is so slow and the unions don’t like it, it will take another 20 years before we can send more trains on the existing track. The possibilities of a high-frequency bus (‘metro over asphalt’) are almost completely ignored. We are ignoring ways to encourage cycling and car-sharing. City design has hardly any vision of innovative transport. All in all, we’re putting a huge amount of money into solutions that we know won’t work, and we’ll continue to do so for the time being: completely unacceptable.

“We’re putting a huge amount of money into solutions that we know won’t work, and we’ll continue to do so for the time being: completely unacceptable.”

I think the core of the problem is that we don’t yet understand how much nicer and more desirable innovative transport can be. We should show how much more beautiful, spacious, green, quiet, healthy and safe the city will be if we do more cycling and car-sharing. We should present car-sharing (‘Spotify your car’) as more luxurious than your own car. Like: of course, you can buy your own long-playing records and always clean them well and play them with a lot of hassle, but streaming offers much more logic, isn’t it? Then you will always have the possibility to drive the ideal car for your trip within a few minutes, without the hump, costs and unpleasant neighbourhood that comes with your own car. There are cute and funny movies but I have yet to see the first slick movie in which that future is sold to us as beautiful and desirable.

All in all, I know from my profession that rapid sustainability is badly needed and that in the end, it will be much cheaper. But if we don’t manage to make it more beautiful and desirable, we will create unnecessary resistance and delays. This is unfortunate and unnecessary because I am convinced that the sustainable story can be presented as a global adventure that brings people together, that makes our world more beautiful and what we do not do because we have to – but because we want to.

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels, Maarten Steinbuch, Mary Fiers, Carlo van de Weijer, Lucien Engelen, Peter de Kock, Tessie Hartjes and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous episodes.

GEM Tower: powering music festivals with sustainable energy

The festival season is coming! Big festivals create an atmosphere for people to relax, to enjoy the music, to liberate themselves from their daily routine and to experience the sense of belonging to the community of like-minded peers. But festivals also create a significant environmental impact and it comes not only in a form of assorted wastes left on the festival grounds but also in a form of carbon emission, a great part of which comes with the production of electricity for the event. This happens because festivals are set up off-grid and the energy for them, as a rule, is produced by diesel generators. If the Netherlands’ summer festivals cut their diesel consumption by 10%, over 1.000.000 litres of diesel and over 3,000 tonnes of CO2 will be saved annually. With the latest advances in renewable energy technologies, this goal became attainable. Now an international project initiated by Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is finishing the development of the solution for powering the festivals with clean energy –  GEM Tower.

GEM Tower – hybrid renewable energy system

“I have gone to many festivals for the past several years and when I went backstage, what I always saw were diesel generators producing electricity for the event,” says Faas Moonen  –  an associate professor of Innovative Structural Design at TU/e. “Diesel generators on the festivals work in a very inefficient mode, emit lots of CO2, produce loud droning noise and bad smell. If you go backstage during the festival, you will know why you need to do something about the energy,” says Moonen.

That is why Moonen and nine other partners started the development of GEM Tower – the hybrid unit that produces renewable energy for the festivals. “We work on GEM Tower project together with several festival directors to meet the actual needs of the festival,” says Moonen.

The hybrid unit developed by GEM-team looks like a metal tower 22 metres high, covered in colourful solar panels and topped with a wind turbine provided by the partner – IBIS Power. The uniqueness of GEM Tower is in the combination of different sources of energy. “When I asked the festival organizers why they use diesel generators only, they said that they would like to have a greener alternative but nothing except diesel generators can work reliably enough to meet the security requirements,” Moonen says. “Solar cells would not produce enough power on a cloudy weekend, so there should be a complete backup. That is why in GEM Tower we combine solar energy and wind because statistically on the days when there is no sun, there is wind and when there is hardly any wind, there is lots of sun. Several days in a year are foggy winter days – with no sun or no wind – but on those days there are hardly any festivals at all. Additionally, GEM Tower has a powerful battery by the partner from the UK Off Grid to supply energy in between wind and solar. If there is no solar power or wind power and if the battery is not enough, GEM Tower has a generator that works on biofuel – used cooking oil. This generator still has some sustainability issues, but the Tower is designed in such a way, that this source of energy will be used as little as possible. It is built into GEM Tower because the festivals need to have 100% electricity security for safety reasons – there are large amounts of people there, so a sudden power shut down is something that should be prevented.”

The sources of energy

The GEM Tower is 22 meters high because the wind turbine should be placed at a height of at least 20 meters for harvesting wind energy. Faas Moonen explains that when the tower is lower, the wind velocity is reduced due to the obstacles on the ground, so there is not enough energy to produce. GEM Tower has a vertical axe windmill on the top – it makes less noise than a horizontal axe.

GEM Tower is made of steel. The makers of the Tower chose that material because it creates the weight to hold the whole structure in place. The Tower cannot be fixed to the ground with any kind of anchor, because if it needs to be installed in a city centre, there would be cables and sewers under the ground that can be easily damaged, so in such cases, the substantial weight of the unit would make it stand-alone stable. The Tower is, however, easy to disassemble due to its foldable design.

The surface of the hybrid unit is covered with solar cells –  as well as the surroundings of the Tower. Solar panels of GEM Tower contain luminescent solar concentrators – this technology is based on the research done in the chemical department of TU/e. “Our solar panels work in the following way: when you have a transparent panel and non-transparent surface under it, the light comes through the transparent layer and hits the opaque surface. After this, the wavelength of the light changes and it cannot come through the transparent surface anymore, so it is trapped inside of the panel and it is transferred to the collectors on the sides (similar technology is also used by the startup Lusoco from TU/e). This technology allows to make the panel colourful – luminescent solar concentrators or LSCs are available in four different colours. We are using all of these colours in our GEM Tower,” says Faas Moonen.

GEM Tower model (Photo © Eric Zonderveld)

“What is great about LSCs, they don’t work on sunlight – they work on light in general, so even if the panels are in the shade, they still can transfer the light to the sides of the panels. The efficiency of LSC panels is currently not very high, but we have a large surface panelled with them on our tower. The solar panels there are not for efficiency only, they also serve for the purposes of design and architecture – the festivals should be bright and colourful! In addition to its main function – powering the festival – GEM Tower will be a landmark of the festival grounds because of its height, so it should look nice. We combine architecture with the energy production technology and with the needs of the festivals – and I think that is the strongest point of GEM Tower,” concludes Moonen.

GEM Tower is expected to be tested on the festivals in August-September 2019.

Research Project around Chemical Storage of Renewable Energy is looking for the involvement of young scientists

Chemische Speicherung von Energie

In the year 2050, 80% of the electricity is to come from renewable energy sources. Sun, wind and biomass are the most important energy sources. But they are not available evenly. On windy and sunny days, more electricity is produced than can be fed into the grids. This fluctuating availability is one of the greatest challenges in the context of the energy revolution. However, overproduction from wind power and photovoltaic (solar) plants can be chemically stored in energy carriers such as hydrogen or hydrocarbons. In this way, electrical energy could be made available again at a later point in time. Catalysts, electrochemical cells and reactors are needed to convert the energy sources into storage molecules such as methane, hydrocarbons or alcohols. These would have to be used in dynamic reaction conditions. How the influence of changing external conditions – i.e. the fluctuation of wind force and solar radiation – affects the catalytic reaction systems has hardly been considered so far. Until now, the chemical reactors have mostly been operated as stationary reactors.

“It is known, however, that the structure of solid catalysts and thus their catalytic effect can change greatly with the reaction conditions. This is scientifically highly exciting,” explains Professor Jan-Dierk Grunwaldt of the Institutes of Technical Chemistry and Polymer Chemistry (ITCP) and of Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

Renowned research institutions from all over Germany

With the name “Priority Programme 2080 – Catalysts and Reactors under Dynamic Operating Conditions for Energy Storage and Conversion (SPP 2080, DynaKat)”, the nationwide, interdisciplinary research programme of German Research Foundation (DFG) was launched in February 2019. The DFG will initially fund the DynaKat priority programme for a total of six years with 8.5 million euros for three years.

“Research cannot progress without networks and teamwork because the individual sub-disciplines are very complex.”

Coordination is the responsibility of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) as the strongest partner in the project. In addition, numerous other renowned research institutions throughout Germany are involved. These include the Research Centre Jülich, the TU Munich and several Max Planck Institutes such as the Berlin Fritz Haber Institute. A total of twelve large research consortia are investigating fundamental and methodological challenges of dynamic operation in interdisciplinary alliances. The supraregional research projects are subdivided into 34 subprojects.

Understanding and improving dynamic conditions

The rapid development of spectroscopic methods and modelling combined with new approaches in material and reactor design provide excellent conditions for research. Recent investigations have also shown that the structure of solid catalysts – and thus also the catalytic effect with the reaction conditions – can change considerably. On the one hand, there is the potential to increase the yield of the desired reaction products through a dynamic operation and to reactivate catalysts in rest phases. On the other hand, the nanostructured catalysts must be stabilized. Efficient utilization of dynamic reaction conditions, therefore, requires a fundamental understanding of all processes involved – from the atomic scale of the catalyst to three-dimensional concentration and temperature distributions in the technical reactor.

“We want to fundamentally understand and improve changes in the material of the catalysts under dynamic conditions,” describes Dr. Erisa Saraçi, scientific assistant at IKFT the project. All processes involved are investigated, from the processes at the atomic level of the catalyst to the spatial distribution of material concentrations and temperatures at the reactor level. For a fundamental understanding of the processes and to develop new approaches in material and reactor design, classical established experiments are used as well as the latest spectroscopic methods and modelling possibilities.

“This is scientifically highly exciting”

The expected increase in knowledge should enable the efficient operation of catalytic systems under dynamic conditions in the future. The basic understanding of this will be developed using the example of reactions for energy storage and conversion and will create the basis for future technological applications.

Schematic representation and overview of the scientific work in the SPP 2080: Using renewable energies, chemicals and fuels are produced from carbon dioxide and water by electrolysis and catalytic conversion. Graphics and ©: Grunwaldt Working Group, KIT

Characteristic for all investigated systems is that the dynamics are systematically impressed from the outside in the time domain between seconds and days. Either because the imposed dynamics can only be avoided with great effort (e.g. fluctuating supply of electrical energy), or because justified advantages for space-time yields or selectivities of catalytic reactions are expected from the dynamic operation.

Open for Young Scientists and Further Research

The results are also interesting for other areas such as exhaust gas catalysis, selective oxidation, fuel cells, batteries or photocatalysis. However, these applications, as well as purely physical-chemical studies, are not part of the research project. The interdisciplinary research project is located in Technical Chemistry or Chemical Reaction Engineering and is explicitly open to other areas of chemistry, physics or materials science that contribute to the topic.

The involvement of young scientists also plays an important role in the DFG priority programme DynaKat. A block course at KIT on “Technologies and Resources for Renewable Energies: From Wind and Solar to Chemical Energy Sources” is open to interested students and doctoral candidates.

“Research cannot progress without networks and teamwork because the individual sub-disciplines are very complex,” says Sebastian Weber, a doctoral student at IKFT/ITCP. Saraçi and Weber emphasise that the exchange and bringing together of different expertise is particularly valuable for young scientists. “The aim is to pool competencies and advance the topic area throughout Germany in order to become an international leader in this field,” said programme coordinator Grunwaldt.

Philips soon to get all of its energy from wind

bouwdokken Philips Neeltje Jans

AkzoNobel, DSM, Google and Philips receive first power from new Dutch wind farm Bouwdokken
AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, DSM, Google, and Philips have started receiving power from the Bouwdokken wind farm in the Netherlands – a milestone achievement resulting from a unique green energy purchasing consortium they jointly established. All four companies consume a substantial amount of power in the Netherlands, and by working together they are making a significant contribution to delivering on the Netherlands’ renewable energy target of 14% by 2020.

In October 2016 and January 2017, the companies signed two long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) that enabled construction of two Dutch wind farm projects – Krammer and Bouwdokken. These wind farms, both of which are located in the southwest of the Netherlands, have a total capacity of over 140 MW, enough to power approximately 140,000 households.

It is the first time that a group of multinationals in the Netherlands has teamed up to negotiate long-term PPAs directly with project developers, bypassing the involvement of an energy utility company. Simon Braaksma, Senior Director of Group Sustainability at Philips said: “As a purpose-driven health technology company, a healthy planet is central to our mission, and we are making good progress to decouple economic growth from our environmental impact. All our operations in the United States are already powered by wind energy, and through this unique consortium, also our operations in the Netherlands will soon be completely powered by green electricity.”

When both Dutch windfarms are fully operational, 100% of Philips’ activities in the Netherlands will be powered by Dutch wind energy, an important milestone in the company’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2020.

The Bouwdokken wind farm is owned by E-Connection on the Neeltje Jans artificial island, which is part of the so-called Delta Works – a series of construction projects that protect the southwest of the Netherlands from the sea. Wind Cooperation Zeeuwind is a 25% shareholder of the wind farm, which consists of 7 turbines of 4.2 megawatts each.

Laetitia Ouillet’s energy mission

Laetitia Ouillet BvOF

“Solving problems with technology – I think that’s what this region is great at.”
The energy system we are using today is not sustainable: people should either change their energy consumption behavior or come up with innovative solutions for creating a more sustainable energy system. The changes towards the new energy system should be made on different levels and in different ways. The director of the Strategic Area Energy in TU/e, Laetitia Ouillet, shares her thoughts on these changes.

Laetitia Ouillet believes that it is important that the government should give an outlook on what will and will not be allowed anymore in the field of energy in the nearest future. “Government has plans for CO2 reduction and for the increase in production of renewable energy. But you cannot have a lot of renewable energy and still have coal and gas as an option next to the renewable sources. It is like going on a really strict diet but still keeping chocolate on the menu.”

Laetitia Ouillet emphasizes how particularly important it is for companies to have a clear view on what would be ruled out in the area of energy. “Let’s take the example of light bulbs: the government said that the inefficient light bulbs would not be in use in a certain period of time. It seemed far away, but if you were a company you had to take this into account because in 10 or 15 years’ time you would not be able to find the replacements for the light bulbs that you had installed.”

The energy policy is aimed not only at the companies but at every individual as well. “If you have a house and every day on the news you hear that at some point we will not be using gas anymore, you might start thinking about changing your house into an energy-neutral one. But it’s a very big investment, so you want to know how serious the situation is. Am I going to be obliged to make my house energy-neutral by the government? Will I get subsidies for the changes I would be doing to the house? People hear that things might change but they don’t know for sure when things will change and whether this change will be their problem to deal with.’’

Despite the fact that people are not obliged to make their houses energy-neutral at the moment, Laetitia Ouillet took some measures to make her house and lifestyle more sustainable. “Our house was built in 1920, it was really leaking energy, so we were using a lot of gas. We replaced the whole roof construction and added a lot of insulation to it – this was quite an expensive project. We changed our gas boiler to the one which is a little more than 5% more efficient. We thought about solar panels, but our roof is too steep, which means that solar panels would only get too little solar radiation to make it a sound investment. Recently we bought a small electric car. I hate driving because I am really against it in terms of effects on environment and I think it’s a waste of time standing in traffic jams. But sometimes I need to drive to bring my children to sports, so we opted for an all-electric car.”

Talking about her work as the director of Strategic Area Energy in TU/e, Laetitia Ouillet mentions that at present most work in the area is being done on how our energy system will accommodate the tremendous amount of renewable energy which we expect to produce. For example, energy conversion and storage: “We work hard on how to turn renewable electricity or sunlight directly (without making electricity out of it) into new fuels. This fuel you can use in your car instead of electricity, which means that you will not have to have huge batteries in the cars – you can have a conversion engine working with liquid energy carriers: ethanol or methanol for example. TU/e Team FAST is working on a fuel which they call Hydrozine, which is sustainably produced formic acid. The great thing about “electrical” fuels is that you can store them. At present you can only store electricity only in a battery. If you want to store more, you need to have bigger batteries but the space that you can use for batteries is limited. So it would be really great if we could make fuels out of electricity. Producing fuels will also help green other industrial processes or heavy transport”  

Carbon dioxide is what is required to produce Hydrozine. Laetitia Ouillet tells us that there are two ways of finding CO2: from a source of emissions (e.g. a big plant) or by capturing CO2 from the air. “With the carbon dioxide capture technology you will be able to get CO2 anywhere – even from the roof of your house, but it is still a difficult process and the quantities that you can get out of the air are much smaller than those you get by going to the polluting site.” The Dutch government has announced large ambitions in terms of CO2 capture and storage project, this could become a source for making new sustainable fuels if combined with renewable electricity. “The area of sustainable fuels has a huge potential,” says Laetitia Ouillet. “TU/e is trying to form the chain of expertise in this area, we are really combining the knowledge – for example, from mechanical engineering and chemical engineering. This is what distinguishes TU/e from other technical universities.”

When asked about professional plans for the nearest future, Laetitia Ouillet says: “The most important aims for me right now is to make the Dutch government realize the role and potential of those new fuels.  Right now we don’t have enough renewable energy to even cover our electricity needs but in the future, if the government continues with their plans, there will be the moment one day, one year that we will need ways of storing it and using it in a smart way. My ambition in the following year is to make sure that these statements are understood by the Dutch government and by the industry.”

Laetitia Ouillet maintains connection with Eindhoven municipality. “The municipality of Eindhoven often asks for our opinions as a research institution on what will be available in the future. I’m really excited about the project of my colleague Bert Blocken – Longen van de Stad Eindhoven aimed at cleaning the air in and around parking areas. I think that’s really a pioneer solution and that is a great way for Eindhoven to make a statement in terms of where they are heading for. Solving it with technology – I think this is what this region is great at.”

Photo Bart van Overbeeke Fotografie

Discussion Table Sustainability inspires 21 communities

Paul van Liempd Waalre

Metropolitan region Eindhoven, the partnership of 21 local authorities, focuses on a number of tasks. These themes (such as housing, mobility, economy and the labour market) form the core of the mission of ‘Metropoolregio Eindhoven’ In ‘worktables’, made up of representatives of the sub-regions and of the organization of the Eindhoven Metropolitan Region, concrete solutions are being sought for all governmental challenges. But the 21 municipalities also have the opportunity to talk to each other about other themes in so-called ‘discussion tables’. Over the past four years, the aldermen have continued to meet each other on the theme of sustainability, and this was mainly due to Paul van Liempd, alderman in Waalre. Just before the elections, we look back and check the results.

If one talks about sustainability in the Metropolitan region, it doesn’t take much time before the conversation arrives at the role Paul van Liempd plays. As the leader of the discussion table for sustainability, he has done everything he could to get the region moving. Sometimes by setting a good example in his hometown Waalre, sometimes by putting one of his fellow aldermen on stage; sometimes with all 21 and sometimes with only some of them – as last week with the establishment of the Green Zone. His commitment and reputation are undisputed, both for the municipality of Waalre and for the entire region. He would like to go on after the elections, but still, given the political climate, it remains to be seen whether the voters will reward him for his results, on 21 March.

The survival of the discussion table itself is not dependent on this for the time being – the 21 municipalities have just promised once again to reserve the costs (500 euros per year per municipality) for 2018 as well. “Of course, this is not a large amount, but it does indicate something about the involvement of the whole region with this theme”, says Van Liempd. “We meet four times a year, each time in a special location directly related to the theme we are talking about. The fact that this results in useful and inspiring meetings is evident from the turnout: we have never been under 80%.”

The main objective of the Sustainability Discussion Table is to exchange knowledge about developments and projects in the broad field of sustainability. The municipality of Waalre, the initiator of this table, organizes the meetings. Projects are often first discussed and then taken up by one or more municipalities in the region. Van Liempd calls it best-practice meetings, where aldermen hear about initiatives which they can also use ‘at home’ as well. In recent years, visits have been made to Solliance in Eindhoven, a project to combat electricity grid pollution in Gemert, Geothermie in Mol, the Metalot energy park in Budel-Dorplein, Venco Campus in Eersel, the Automotive Campus in Helmond and the sports park in Reusel-De Mierden. There was also attention for the waste bike in Waalre itself. Van Liempd: “And we end each meeting with the same question: What did we learn and what are we going to do with it now?”

Although Van Liempd has not kept a list of the effects of all these encounters, he sees around him what it all brings. “I hear the reactions of my fellow aldermen: there are always things that are not yet well known enough, there is always something useful. This is logical, of course, because we are all facing the same kind of problems, so there is always another municipality where this problem has been tackled just a little bit earlier. It is about identifying these points, learning about them and then developing specific action.”

Concrete examples? It doesn’t take Van Liempd a second to name them. Making homes more sustainable, facilitating large-scale solar parks, improving insight into the possibilities of wind and geothermal energy, taking steps to create a ‘waste-free society’ and collaborating in tendering procedures for waste management.

Many of these projects come together in the “Energy Opportunities Map“. The map shows the contours for a new interpretation of our future energy needs. The areas where wind turbines could come, or solar fields, biomass plants, and geothermal power stations. Later, the locations will be added for the storage of the energy that has been collected there, but for the time being there is not yet a clear picture of this.

Kansenkaart energie


Students TU/e offer Energy Update in Research Meet

Carlos Moreno TU/e Energy

Although the meetings are open to the public, the presentations are not particularly suitable for everyone. For the Energy Research Meets of TU Eindhoven, a visitor should not only have an above-average interest in the energy transition, but also some knowledge of chemistry and physics. Laetitia Ouillet, who leads TU/e’s “Strategic Area Energy“, pushed her students to speak in understandable terms, but still just a few were able to resist the temptation to throw their chemical formulations into the pitch.

Every three months, Ouillet opens the doors to provide interested people with insight into the state of the research. The energy transition is the main theme in all presentations, but there are big differences: very abstract, technical subjects are alternated with the most concrete ones.

This Friday for example, for the fifth Energy Research Meet, we hear from Kay Coenen about his research into the production of hydrogen and from Mark Damen about a way to use plasma to store clean (green) energy CO2-neutrally in hydrocarbons. The trick is to convert CO2 into CO, he explains. Koen Heijmans is looking for the possibility of energy storage mainly in salt hydrates; a thermochemical solution with magnesium chloride.

For a layman, the stories of Hungchu Chen and Len Rijvers are most appealing. Rijvers is looking for a business case for the integration of hybrid solar collectors, heat pumps and heat storage, which is desperately needed if we want to disconnect all the homes from natural gas by 2050. Hungchu Chen shows a map of Eindhoven and its surroundings on which 5 different types of land use have been plotted. In this way, she makes clear how the existing gas and electricity needs can be better linked to local energy production: “urban energy modeling“.

Nikola Boskovic has researched where a dc/ac converter can be effective. For example, in the direct use of solar panels for energy needs at home, but – and this is what he concentrates on – it can also be crucial for the automotive industry. Its Gallium nitride semiconductor technology reduces energy loss but, as he says directly, “a lot more research is needed for this”.

It was a conclusion that could often be heard this Friday afternoon – also during the after-event-drinks. Laetitia Ouillet’s task is not yet completed.

An overview of all the pitches

Photo: Carlos Moreno during his presentation