News - December 14, 2017

18,000 solar panels on Haarweg

Text:
Roelof Kleis

A solar park with 18,000 solar panels may be built next to the student accommodation on Haarweg, on the west side of Wageningen. The company LC Energy wants to set up the park on land belonging to Wageningen University & Research.

© LC Energy

LC Energy, with offices in Plus Ultra on campus, is the company developing and investing in the park. WUR wants to let seven hectares of land for the solar park. LC Energy is a collaborative venture between the British investor Low Carbon and the consultancy and engineering firm Qing, established by Wageningen businessman Martin Ruiter.

It was WUR and Qing that came up with the idea for the solar park, says Ruiter. ‘Wageningen municipality wants to be climate-neutral by 2030. One aspect of this is generating sustainable energy. When it turned out at the end of last year that wind turbines were not a feasible option for Wageningen, the municipality asked us to look at the options for the large-scale generation of solar energy.’

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One option is WUR’s former trial fields on Haarweg. Ruiter: ‘The site is close to a point where we can feed the generated power into the grid. What is more, the park is large enough to make the development financially viable. The panels deliver five megawatts of electricity per annum, enough for roughly 5000 households. That’s the lower limit for a solar park.’

Wageningen’s municipal executive wants to facilitate the park. That will require a change to the zoning plan as the land is currently designated for R&D use. If the solar park plan goes ahead, the site will be filled with 18,000 solar panels, arranged in arrays two panels high. They will rise to a good two metres above ground level.

The plan has its critics. Landscape society Mooi Wageningen is ‘not enthusiastic’, according to spokesperson Patrick Jansen. ‘A solar park like this detracts from the rural setting. You build a structure on a large area of open land. This plan is about going for the easiest solution; building in an outlying area at the expense of the open countryside.’

Ruiter says the solar park will be designed to fit in with the landscape as much as possible. ‘It will be surrounded by a green hedge at any rate. We also want to use the land efficiently by combining multiple functions. An example would be doing research on different combinations of grass seed.’ Anyway, the use of the site is temporary, says Ruiter. The park will remain in operation for 20 to 25 years.