Dutch rail network to run on wind power by 2018

Dutch rail network to run on wind power by 2018

The Netherlands plans to run its entire rail network on 100 percent wind power within three years, according to Railway Technology.

It is reported that Dutch energy company Eneco and the VIVENS rail companies signed a deal to make Dutch electric trains run completely on energy produced by wind farms.

According to Michel Kerkhof, account manager at Eneco, the deal has the potential to revolutionise how renewable energy is obtained and utilised, both in the rail sector and other primary industries.

"What makes this contract and partnership unique is that a whole sector decreases its CO2 footprint enormously and sets an example for other sectors to follow," Kerkhof said.

Producing wind power

Around 1,2 million passengers travel on trains in the Netherlands every day. Eneco has agreed to supply 1,4 terawatt hours (TWh) of wind-sourced power, which is roughly the same amount of energy consumed by all the households in Amsterdam.

In the Netherlands, wind power already supplies energy for half of the network - some 2.890 km (1.800 miles) of track. Under the terms of the deal, half of the NS fleet of electric trains will run on green energy in 2015, rising to 70 percent the following year, 95 percent in 2017, with the goal of a 100 percent renewable network by 2018.

Half of that total wind power is expected to come from the Netherlands and the other from Belgium and some Scandinavian nations. The proposed scheme is partly intended to increase renewable energy adoption in other European nations.

Specially built wind farms

Eneco has made a point of using specially built wind farms for the project to avoid putting existing plants under unnecessary pressure and to keep prices down.

The railway operators, meanwhile, are making energy efficiency savings in other areas (through train design and driving techniques) in order to keep demand as low as possible - this in turn ensures that the extra price of wind power isn't passed on to customers.

Main challenges

The main challenges associated with wind energy generation have to do with delays in the realisation of a wind farm. Kerkhof believes that it is possible to mitigate this by creating a large enough pipeline of wind farms to source from.

"Eneco will ensure that there is always enough power available on the grid for the rail companies and guarantees that the annual amount of electricity needed for rail companies corresponds to the annual production of the wind farms," he explains.

Worldwide wind power

In the last few years, wind power has seen rapid growth worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency, the land-based wind power installation rate has gone up around 24 percent annually every year since 2000. The agency predicts that if world governments stick to plan, wind power could account for 18 percent of all energy production globally.

China is now producing more energy from wind than the US is from nuclear, while Denmark now has enough wind farms to exceed the country's total energy needs on windy days.

Reducing CO2 emissions

The Netherlands is to reduce its CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2020, according to EU environmental targets. Recent statistics published by PBL, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, shows that at its current rate, we will see a reduction of 18 percent, requiring additional measures to achieve the remaining 7 percent.

Kerkhof explains how mobility is responsible for around 20 percent of CO2 emissions in the Netherlands. "If we want to keep travelling, it is important that we do this without burdening the environment with CO2 and particulate matter. This contract offers all Dutch citizens the option to make a climate-neutral trip, regardless of distance," he told Railway Technology.

"No direct subsidies from the government are related to this contract - it is the result of a European tender procedure between market parties," states Kerkhof.

Parvinder Marwaha


Parvinder Marwaha

British-born editor Parvinder studied architecture in the UK. Amsterdam’s architecture and design scene led her to the city, as well the obvious perks of canal-side living. She writes for various...

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