Folkecenter's Newsletter for July 2019 is now ready for download!

Published: 22.07.2019

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Folkecenter's report archive is now digital!

Published: 20.07.2019

Throughout the years, Folkecenter has produced hundreds of reports and presentations on renewable energy topics. The reports were originally sold on hard copy, but we have now decided that this knowledge should be accessible to everybody.

It took us several months to digitalize all the material, but it is now ready! The material is divided in topics and it is possible to search among the titles, years, language and authors, for a better user experience.

The archive can be viewed and downloaded free of charge here. From now on, all the material produced by Folkecenter will be placed in on that page. Enjoy the reading!

Small Wind Turbines for Farmers

Published: 05.07.2019

Between July 2nd and July 4th, Folkecenter received a very special visit: we are talking about Sjouke Ritsema from the Netherlands, one of the former Folkecenter trainees still attached to the center. We have already talked about him in a previous article, but that time he came here mostly for a leisure visit. This time the situation is different, since his trip is mostly business related.

As mentioned in the previous article, Sjouke started a company producing small wind turbines; three years ago, at the time of his last visit, the company (called EAZ Wind) was still a start-up, but now it a solid reality with 45 people employed. Their focus is on providing small wind turbines (up to 15 kW) to farmers in the western countries. Everything started in the Netherlands, their main market, where they achieved the amazing result of 100 turbines sold per year, a value which they would like to reach also now that they entered the German market. Plans are to expand also in France, Belgium, Denmark and the UK, all areas which are very interesting both for their wind resources and for the concentration of farms.

It is exactly for this reason that Sjouke and IJssebrand, one of his colleagues, visited us: expanding to a new country involves many challenges and many unknowns which is why they wanted to get a little updated on the current Danish situation.

Why Folkecenter?

In order to enter a new market, we need to have a business case; for this, a considerable amount of information is required, like what what are the electricity prices, what are the policies in place and how easy is to get a building permit, just to make some examples. Collecting all these information can be time and resource consuming, which is why we decided to come here, since Folkecenter has a lot of know-how on the topic. It was very beneficial and I actually think that every country should have a Folkecenter.

EAZ wind

IJssebrand Ziel (left) and Sjouke Ritsema (right) in Folkecenter’s old testfield

Do you focus only on farmers? Why?

Yes, our main focus at the moment is farmers; we think it is a very interesting customer group, because they have the capacity to invest and, at the same time, they have a large electricity consumption. With our solution, we calculate that a large portion of electricity can be generated by wind, which makes them save electricity and which leads to relatively short payback period. The situation is even more interesting if the wind turbine is coupled with PVs and battery technology. Furthermore, we can count on the buzz-effect, meaning that often our new customers come to us because they know some of our old customers.

Is your business model based on feed-in tariffs?

No, not at all. We focus on covering the electricity demand of the farmers, not on volatile market supports. Our whole idea is based on reducing the amount of money farmers need to put for electricity consumption. The model has worked quite well so far and we think it could be very good also in Denmark: although the country has has a low price of electricity for farmers, it is also true that there is much more wind, so we expect the two things to balance.

How did the idea started?

It was actually during my internship in Folkecenter. Before that, I had a general idea that I wanted to do something good for the planet, but I did not know exactly what. During my period in Folkecenter I became a renewable energy enthusiast and I started to look at wind with a different interest: that is how the whole concept started. I was then back in the Netherlands, where I worked for a period in a solar company. During this period, I started to research the market together with 4 friends and we that there were were many PV installed, which was a reason for the grid operators to complain; that meant that wind energy was also necessary, but large installations faced increasing resistance from people. That was the moment when I said: “Why not build a small wind turbine?”

How does your turbine look like?

It looks friendly with it’s green mast and wooden blades. We focus a lot on the visual impact. Our windmill design blends with the landscape, and therefore should not exceed existing landscape elements like trees too much. We think that this approach helps to maintain support from local residents. The turbine operates by passive control principles, but is still very efficient. Furthermore, by keeping it simple, our model needs very limited maintenance: we make a yearly visual inspection and a technical inspection every fifth year, as required by law; low maintenance and good quality are important for us, because that is a way to lower the costs for our clients.

What are the plans for the future?

As mentioned, we would like to enter new western markets, like Denmark; after that, we will extend our focus from the agricultural sector to off-grid applications and then, finally, private consumers.

After the visit to Folkecenter, Sjouke and his colleagues are now considering to bring one of their models in Denmark next year, to test them in our new test field for small wind turbines. The turbine is already tested, but they would like to have all the necessary tests and certifications needed to enter the Danish market.