Solar Energy in a Dutch Factory

by W van Zanten, CADDET Dutch National Team


While renewable energy applications derived from sunlight are already being used on a large scale in housing construction, industry has lagged behind, although it has started to show a steadily increasing interest. Van Melle, a leading confectionery group based in Breda, the Netherlands implemented a
large-scale solar energy project in June 1997. In this project, water for cleaning machinery and floors and for sanitary facilities is heated by a solar thermal energy system.


Solar Energy System

The system's supplier is AGPO BV of Breda, which works closely with the Dutch manufacturer of solar energy systems, ZEN. Novem helped put this solar energy system into operation at Van Melle.
Due to the magnitude of the project, a number of specific solutions had to be found and implemented. For instance, the closed return flow principle was chosen for the AGPO/ZEN system. This allows the water to flow back from the collector into a reservoir if there is a risk of overheating or freezing. The advantages of this principle, which is already well-known in housing construction, can now also be used on a large enough scale to be useful for industrial purposes. The system is the largest in the world to feature this principle.

Two hundred and twenty-eight collectors were installed, with a total surface area of 2,400 m2. The largest standard modules of the AGPO/ZEN range were employed. The collected energy heats 125,000 litres of tap water daily, satisfying about 45% of the company's hot water requirements. The water is used in the production process and for cleaning and rinsing machines and production rooms. The annual saving on natural gas will amount to about 170,000 m3. The capacity of the collector field can reach 2 MW on a sunny day, and the storage capacity is 95,000 litres, sufficient to store a whole day's solar energy. Around 5,000 litres of the stored hot water are used for the return flow principle.


The solar energy system at the Van Melle factory at Breda

Environmental Policy

The company's environmental policy is focussed on respect for the living environment and reducing the company's impact on the environment. Its investment in solar energy is right in line with this policy, which aims for business operations to have become entirely sustainable by the year 2005. These sustainable business operations are to consist of activities that have no adverse effects on the environment, or at least remain within limits that the environment can endure without permanent damage.

Van Melle has become aware of the effect of its business operations on the environment. The main energy and water flows are measured at all the plants. Simply identifying these flows has influenced working methods and led to improvements and savings. Every investment is assessed in terms of its contribution to reducing environmental impact, such as: greenhouse effect; acidification; water depletion; eutrophication and removal of contaminants. Then, the differences between current and sustainable situations are examined and, in this way, priorities are established.

This approach showed energy consumption to be the main environmental impact factor for
Van Melle, who are tackling the issue by installing heat exchangers and heat pumps to reduce consumption in the factory. In addition, investments are being made in large-scale projects, such as biogas extraction at water treatment plants, a wind turbine at the factory in Poland, contracts for 'green energy' with utility companies, investments in the Dutch 'wind fund', geothermal energy, photovoltaic and thermal solar energy. Such projects are often financially unattractive because their profitability is low. That is why the company has reserved about 10% of its investment budget for environmental measures..


Tax Incentives

The Dutch government aims to increase the profitability of renewable energy options in relation to conventional alternatives by means of tax incentives. Under the VAMIL regulations, certain environmental and energy investments can be depreciated free of taxable profit, which yields an interest advantage for entrepreneurs. 'Green investments' make it possible for private individuals to invest in a fund and receive tax-exempt interest payments. As a result, the fund can lend money to investors in renewable energy projects.

The Regulating Energy Tax has caused the price of small-scale consumption of electricity to rise by 15% and, as a result, natural gas will become about 20 to 25% more expensive in 1998. When renewable energy is used, the distribution company does not have to declare the Regulating Energy Tax collected from clients. The price difference benefits those who generate renewable energy.

Under a fiscal instrument known as the EIA, about half the investment in energy saving and sustainable techniques can be deducted from the taxable profit. 'Green' value added tax is charged at 6% instead of the normal rate of 17.5%, which is advantageous for the end user.



The industrial application of renewable energy in the Netherlands depends not only upon the enthusiasm of managers and directors; technology and the government are increasingly turning these applications into feasible options.

For more information contact the CADDET Dutch National Team in Sittard

The CADDET Renewable Energy Newsletter is a quarterly magazine published by the CADDET Centre for Renewable Energy at ETSU, UK.

The articles published in the Newsletter reflect the opinions of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the official view of CADDET.

Enquiries concerning the Newsletter should be addressed to
Pauline Toole, Editor, CADDET Centre for Renewable Energy, ETSU, Harwell, Oxfordshire OX11 0RA, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 1235 432968, Fax: +44 1235 433595.