Responsible placement of solar parks in the Netherlands

Respect for public spaces

In the Netherlands, the energy transition is becoming increasingly tangible. What I’m seeing is that the government's Renewable Energy Production Stimulus (SDE) package is creating strong growth in the solar energy sector. In addition to the roofs of homes and other buildings, open land is now quickly becoming production fields for solar energy through solar parks. But all this sunny production also has a darker side. In my opinion, it's time to think about things from a different perspective and imagine a better way to treat our public spaces. After all, a solar park will be around for 20 years. At Kiwa, we see that municipalities, builders and developers are busy assessing the situation, but that they are nowhere near having adequate insight into the consequences of the different choices.

Vision versus sprawl

Public space in the Netherlands is shared for multiple functions and activities. In addition to economic activity, it is mainly the scenic nature and biodiversity that determine the quality of the local environment. Constructing solar parks touches on all these areas, and that makes it of interest to many different parties. Anyone living in a scenic area, or who likes visiting them, places a high value on that green environment. On the other hand, policies regarding nitrogen deposition and regulations for C02 reductions are making it increasingly difficult for farmers and landowners to subsist from their land alone. With the rapid scalability of the solar energy business being incentivised with billions in SDE subsidies in 2020, you have an ideal recipe mix for the over-proliferation of solar parks. It is important for municipalities to start thinking about what their vision for the region, zoning plans and permits should be.  

Nature Inclusive Solar Parks

Certainly, solar parks are an important part of the energy transition. The question is how to place them with care. Their development, management and eventual removal needs to be done in a demonstrably responsible way. It is not only about the visual effect of a sea of solar panels on the land; it’s also about preventing irreparable harm to nature. By covering hectares of land with panels, the light, air and water no longer have adequate access to the soil. There is no proper filtration and all life under the panels dies out, which then causes all kinds of insects and birds to disappear. Kiwa’s partner NISP certified has brought all these aspects together in the concept of the Nature Inclusive Solar Parks (NISP).

Kiwa 11007 guideline

The NISP concept defines the various elements that are important for responsible solar park realisation, and Kiwa has developed a new guideline specifically for this: the 11007. The guideline is based on the NISP Tool that gives clients a blueprint for development, construction and management. Its advantage is the ability to avoid stumbling blocks in the project execution and in the preservation of a vital natural habitat for the long term. With an NISP, you already comply with Holland Solar’s Solar on Land Code of Ethics. This code was signed in late 2019 by companies in the solar industry as well as by environmental agencies and local residents (NLVOW).