What role do agriculturists or farmers play in the supply of sustainable energy? Being self-sufficient is one thing, but can they also play a major role as a producer of sustainable energy? The possibilities are available, but support must be provided when the average agriculturists has to become an energy supplier.
It is estimated that in 2018 the agricultural sector already supplied more than 15% of green energy for households in our country. The Netherlands is increasingly aware of the fact that our green energy is closely linked to the sustainable qualities of the agricultural sector.
However, we are not even close when it concerns reaching our sustainable targets. In the coming years, many more opportunities will arise and must be exploited to make sure, the Netherlands and especially the agricultural sector, will become more sustainable.
Energy suppliers are also aware of the share farmers have in making the Netherlands more sustainable.
Producer, consumer and supplier
Energy suppliers are also aware of the share farmers have in making the Netherlands more sustainable. It is expected that at least 25% of our sustainable energy will be produced by farmers in the coming years. With the use of existing and the arrival of innovative possibilities to generate green energy yourself, that number will undoubtedly rise
Many farmers initially use the energy generated on regular basis in their own business. The energy is used for machines, the production of crops, the cooling of storage cells and for feeding the animals. The energy that is not used, the surplus, is distributed to energy companies via the grid. These energy companies can distribute the energy from the farmers to third parties such as private households and other companies. In such a way, the interaction between the agricultural sector and the energy suppliers is a step further.
Sustainability at local level
To highlight the local aspect, there are already plans in which agricultural energy producers provide nearby households with sustainable energy. At the moment these plans are still small-scale, so that only the immediate environment can be provided. With all sustainable technical innovations in prospect, the size of this area will soon be scaled up.
During the winter months, many agricultural companies need electricity but the available sunshine is scarce. As there is more wind in winter and also in autumn than in other seasons, a wind turbine offers a great solution.
Combine Wind and Solar
A good example in which an agricultural company is practically energy neutral and can also be regarded as an energy producer is a so-called ‘Wind-Solar Combination’. Nowadays many farmers own a wind turbine and also add Solar-panels on one or more of their shed roofs.
During the winter months, many agricultural companies need electricity but the available sunshine is scarce. As there is more wind in winter and also in autumn than in other seasons, a wind turbine offers a great solution. In the spring and summer, it is the other way around. The sun is shining more often and brighter, so that the solar panels offer a perfect solution during these periods.
The surplus generated by wind or sun can be distributed to the grid. In this way, other parties can be supplied with sustainably generated energy as well. The farmer provides himself and other (third) parties with sustainable energy.
Another advantage of a Wind-Solar combination is so-called ‘Cable pooling’. If a special power cable is necessary for the construction of a Solar PV installation, the thickness of this cable is often based on the peak moments of the PV installation which occur only a few times during spring and summer. During months with less sun hours, this cable is not used optimally.
When the Solar PV is installed near a wind turbine, both sustainable sources can be connected via the same cable. The moments when both sun and wind are fully present are extremely rare and both product-installations can be monitored if necessary. In such a way, both small and large producers of solar and wind energy can save a lot of money and also make optimal use of the installed cable and grid connection.
When the Solar PV is installed near a wind turbine, both sustainable sources can be connected via the same cable.
Not only energy producers but also the network operators will, given all the investments that entail the necessary adjustments to the network, benefit from the cables being used as efficiently and profitably as possible. Fewer costs for network reinforcement and maintenance for the network operator, smarter use of the existing infrastructure and increasing CO2 savings; multiple benefits.
The future of technology is endless and all the innovations that will pop up in the coming years ensure that there are sufficient opportunities for agricultural businesses to become even more energy-neutral and also to provide others with sustainable energy.
Sharing is Caring
It is primarily a financial discussion about this topic. Investments in sustainability are often large and financing everything with equity is often not possible. That is why government support in the form of incentives is a must. Will farmers receive the support they need to actually invest in opportunities that enables them to supply green energy to third parties in addition to being self-sufficient? The problem of the government, the depletion of our current raw materials for generating energy, would be solved to a large extent.