The Netherlands have taken the lead to become the first country to run trains solely powered by wind energy. This news came ahead of the 2018 schedule that the Dutch rail operator had previously set. So on New Year's Day, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) announced that their railways will power electric trains from 100% renewable energy provided by wind turbines both on and offshore. NS will require 1.2B kWh of wind-powered energy per year, which is the same amount that all households in Amsterdam consume every year. The Danish rail operator partnered with the renewable energy company Eneco in 2015 and since then they have created a successful partnership achieving the world's first 100% renewable train. Now 4,800 wind-powered trains will run along these tracks everyday catering for 1.1 million passengers. For the first time, rail travellers will have an option to travel as green as possible. This decision was directed by developers behind Holland's largest offshore wind installation - the 600MW Gemini project where €2.8 billion worth of contracts were signed to push the project towards its new targeted completion date of 2017.
Why wind power?
Not only is it beneficial for the environment, but it makes economic sense. Onshore wind is now the cheapest form of new power generation in Europe. The Netherlands currently has 2.7GW of wind power capacity in operation, most of which is onshore, and aims to reach 4.45GW by 2023, according to reports from BusinessGreen. With these reducing costs, it means that it will play a large part in renewable energy going forward. The green power is used by carriers from new wind farms that have been set up in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Belgium, whilst the rest of the trains' energy will be provided from other countries. Eneco guarantee that sufficient energy will be provided for the trains at all times. A key objective from the partnership was to reach out to other wind power plants within Europe and encourage more countries to begin using sustainable energy.
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The Netherlands have been using wind power since the 17th century when they used turbines to drain land covered in water. In 2015, it was recorded that the country now have 2,200 windmils, according to figures from the wind energy association. In total, the Netherlands now produces enough wind energy to power 2.4 million households, Netherland's Wind Energy Association (NWEA) said. The Dutch are trying to meet the EU-set target of producing 14% of total electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
According to Michel Kerkhof, account manager at Eneco, this deal has the capability to set the example for rail travel around the world. It can revolutionise how renewable energy is procured and utilised, both in the rail sector and other primary industries.
"If the Dutch railways sourced 100% of the 1.4 tWh of energy they needed each year from within the Netherlands, this would decrease availability and increase prices of green power for other parties," explains Eneco's Kerkhof. "That is why half of the demand will be sourced from a number of new wind farms in Belgium and Scandinavia, which have been specifically assigned for this contract. A key objective is to avoid procuring energy from the limited existing number of sustainable energy projects in the Netherlands, thus promoting renewable growth both domestically and Europe-wide."
This video features NS CEO Rogier van Boxtel, who straps himself to a Dutch windmill...
"This partnership ensures that new investments can be made in even newer wind farms, which will increase the share of renewable energy," confirms Kerkhof. "In this way, the Dutch railways aim to reduce the greatest negative environmental impact caused by CO2 in such a way that its demand actually contributes to the sustainable power generation in the Netherlands and Europe."
Editor's comment: The Netherlands are setting the stage for sustainable rail transport of the future creating a landmark in the industry's history - it is time other rail operators did the same.
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