General 15/12/2023

'No more solar farm without a battery'

Novar commissioned its first battery in early 2023 at Zonnepark Bontepolder in Terneuzen, Zeeland. This has a capacity of 5 megawatts and a storage capacity of 5 megawatt hours, and shares the connection with the solar energy system. This also made it a first for the Netherlands. Jan Martijn Buruma, Business Unit Director Storage, Hydrogen & Smart Grids: 'The business case is still exciting, but in the meantime we already have several similar projects in the pipeline. A battery at a solar park is becoming the standard.'

Novar is one of the most successful Dutch developers of large-scale solar energy projects. There are already 26 projects in Novar's name, with a total of some 1.5 million solar panels: enough to supply energy to 200,000 households. Many more projects are in the pipeline, both on rooftops and fields. But according to Buruma, the time of simply producing as much solar power as possible and throwing it onto the grid is over. The time of building an integrated and flexible energy system has arrived.


'The rapid and massive rollout of solar panels remains necessary if we are to achieve our energy transition goals,' said Buruma. 'However, in many places the limits of our power grid have been reached or are in sight, and the supply of power is increasingly diverging from demand as more wind and solar energy is added. You can control demand, but you can't fully match supply. So we need to move towards a smart combination of generation, supply, storage and energy conversion. We saw that need coming and have been broadening our activities for some time. We underscored that shift in 2023 with our name change, from Solarfields to Novar.'

Solar thermal and hydrogen

So Novar's focus is no longer on electricity generation with large-scale solar projects. Novar now focuses on the development of complete energy systems. These consist of generation, storage and supply of both electricity and heat. This is already manifesting itself in concrete projects, such as the realization of Europe's largest solar thermal park in Dorkwerd near Groningen. That has 24,000 solar collectors that annually generate about 25 gigawatt hours of thermal energy. That energy is supplied to WarmteStad Groningen's medium-temperature heat network. Another example is the construction of a 5 megawatt electrolyser for the production of hydrogen at solar park Vloeivelden in Nieuw-Buinen. And earlier this year, Novar' s first large battery storage system went online at Zonnepark Bontepolder in Zeeland.

Just do it

Buruma: 'If the Netherlands is to be energy-neutral by 2050, a great many large batteries will have to be installed to keep the grid stable and power affordable. And to guarantee security of supply of power, some 10 gigawatts of battery power must be available by the end of this decade, Netbeheer Nederland calculated in a scenario study. The current regulations, particularly in the area of transmission costs, still stand in the way of the earning model for this type of energy storage system. But we are fully committed to it. That is a great strength of Novar; not endless discussions and calculations, but simply doing and learning. That's how you get ahead.

Not endless calculations, but simply doing and learning: that is the strength of Novar.
Jan Martijn Buruma Jan Martijn Buruma | Business Unit Director Storage

Primary allocation point

Solar park Bontepolder near Terneuzen is located on a former landfill. It covers 11.8 hectares and has 31,962 solar panels, collectively good for a generating capacity of 17.21 megawatt peak. The battery installed by Novar - and built by Alfen - is a 1-hour system with an output of 5 megawatts and a capacity of 5 megawatt-hours. It shares the primary allocation point with the solar farm. This, when the system was commissioned in January 2023, was a national first - the first large battery in the Netherlands to be used on such a large scale at a solar park on the same grid connection.

Secondary meter

By sharing the grid connection, the solar power system and the battery are connected behind the meter from a technical perspective, allowing power from the solar farm to be stored in the battery. However, both projects each have their own secondary meter, meaning that from a commercial perspective they each have their own grid connection. This has the advantage that the projects can have separate commercial arrangements and can also be financed. It is agreed that the solar farm will always have priority in the use of the grid connection to the battery, so there is no need for curtailment of solar power.

Net-neutral incorporation

Buruma: "Our battery will be integrated into the power grid in a grid-neutral way, i.e. it will in no way exacerbate grid congestion. To this end, we were one of the first parties to conclude a capacity-limiting contract with grid operator Stedin. This means that at certain times, when there are peaks in off-take on the local grid, we are not allowed to draw power to recharge the battery. We are currently in talks with Stedin about a capacity-controlling contract. Here we agree that Stedin can actively use the battery to reduce grid congestion. In addition, we provide services in the field of balancing Tennet's national high-voltage grid. That is by far the most important application at the moment.'

'Batteries are becoming a standard addition to our solar farms. The flexibility they offer is key to our energy transition' - Jan Martijn Buruma | Business Unit Director Storage, Hydrogen & Smart Grids

Advanced algorithms

The operation and optimization of trading on the day-ahead and frequency markets with the battery storage system at Zonnepark Bontepolder is in the hands of flex service provider Repowered, part of Novar. This is done using advanced algorithms. For the actual control of the battery and the solar park, Repowered has an integration with Spectral's smartgrid platform. This allows for maximum utilization of the connection, including in the context of congestion management.

Startup problems solved

'It's quite a complicated project, especially in terms of developing the software that facilitates communication and proper cooperation between the battery and the solar farm,' Buruma says. 'In addition, we encountered many small issues, for example that the site is located just between 2 4G transmission towers which caused the internet connection to keep switching on and off. We solved that by installing a fixed Internet cable. These kinds of unforeseen start-up problems are of course peculiar to pioneering, but they have all been resolved. The system is now running as expected and will be continuously optimized to support the power grid and improve the business case. That one is still exciting, but in the meantime we already have several new battery projects in the pipeline. Batteries will become a standard addition to our solar farms, at least where possible. After all, the flexibility they offer is key to our energy transition.'

Article published in: Solar Magazine

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