News - December 16, 2010

Wageningen UR switches to wind energy

Wageningen UR is switching energy provider and the new contract guarantees 100 percent green wind energy. Some of the energy may even come from the university's own wind park.

The moment the fireworks explode - at the stroke of twelve on new year's eve - Wageningen UR switches to green electricity. We won't actually notice the difference, explains energy procurement officer Harry Kester. The lights won't glow brighter, nor will the computers be faster. And it isn't cheaper, either: per kilowatt-hour the electricity is several percentage points more expensive even. But then it is green energy. The switch is a giant leap in Wageningen UR's efforts towards a more sustainable management.
Right now the electricity is still supplied by Essent. But as of 1 January E.ON Benelux will take over. This company won the tender earlier this year. E.ON Benelux guarantees that it will supply wind energy. Of all available forms of sustainable energy, wind energy was deliberately chosen, according to Kester. 'In this way we create a link between what we buy and what we generate ourselves.' Kester refers to Wageningen UR's three wind energy parks in Lelystad, of which he is the director.
Home-produced energy
As it happens, Wageningen UR uses almost as much electricity as that generated by its 26 wind turbines in Lelystad: 70 million kWh per year, in a good wind year. In principle the organization makes enough energy for its own needs. But it doesn't work like that, explains Kester: 'It would mean you'd have to install and manage underground electric cables between Wageningen and Lelystad, and that would be far too expensive.'
Physically there is no difference between green and grey (fossil fuel generated) energy. The difference lies in the paperwork. According to Kester, E.ON Benelux guarantees that the electricity used by Wageningen UR is procured as wind energy. This happens in line with what are known as Guarantees of Origin. As a result, less grey electricity is generated, reducing emissions of CO 2 . It is not known whether E.ON Benelux buys wind energy from the turbines in Lelystad, says Kester, as there is a complex intermediary trade between supplier and consumer. In spite of this it is not impossible that part of the physical electricity used by Wageningen originates from its own wind turbines.