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Ten Dutch solar energy startups that are worth following

In The Netherlands the market for solar energy is still marginal with a mere 0.71 percent of all energy being produced by photovoltaic panels in 2014. Things are changing though and the future looks bright. We take a look at ten Dutch startups that are harnessing the power of the sun.

In 2014, just 0.71 percent of all energy was being produced by photovoltaic panels in The Netherlands, while in neighbouring Germany, this percentage was 5.8 percent. An important reason for this difference is the guaranteed minimum prize German users receive for all green energy they produce and subsequently deliver to the grid, for a period of twenty years. This system of subsidization by the government resulted in an enormous amount of photovoltaic panels (PV-panels) to be installed, mainly on privately owned homes.

In The Netherlands the market, while definitely growing, is still lagging behind. Here, users can also deliver surplus energy to the grid, but there is no guaranteed prize and the system certainly won’t be there for several decades more. So, other methods are necessary to convince the Dutch to install PV-panels on their rooftops. The municipality of Utrecht adopted a law that obliges the use of PV panels on all newly built homes. Amsterdam wants to do the same. Some municipalities are providing one-time subsidies to home owners, while others hope that extensive information about the suitability of rooftops will be sufficient to convince home owners. At the same time the Dutch government provides several billions of subsidies to companies each year (this year it’s 3.5 billion euro) to stimulate sustainable energy projects (SDE+).

For most people, a low price and the assurance that the initial investment will pay itself back within a reasonable amount of time, are the main decisive factors, when installing PV-panels. And yes, it all has to look half-decent and be easy to install and maintain. It’s here that the solar panel industry can make a difference, by providing cheaper, more efficient products, novel designs and excellent service. Several startups are jumping on the bandwagon as well and are using the sun to make a profit.

StartupJuncture takes a look at ten Dutch startups that are harnessing the power of the sun

 

Solease

 

Solease
Founded in 2011 by Pierre Vermeulen, Roderick van Wisselingh, Peter Deege and Loes van Petersen. Based in Utrecht.

Solease participates in startup incubator UtrechtInc. They rent out PV-panels to home owners as well as participants in SDE+ (government-subsidized) projects. Additionally, they realize solar projects for businesses. Earlier this month, StartupJuncture interviewed founder Pierre Vermeulen.

How big is the team?
Seven people. There are three vacancies, so the team hopefully consist of ten people later this year.

What is the business model?
Solease charges a one-off startup fee, plus a yearly management fee.

What are the plans for the future?
Within five years, Solease wants to install 50.000 systems on privately owned rooftops in The Netherlands, which translates to 200 MW. The commercial market will eventually result in another 200 MW. Also within five years, Solease wants to expand to another three European countries.

Why is solar energy important?
Vermeulen: “Firstly, it’s good for the economy, because renting PV-panels saves people money and therefore their purchasing power. Secondly, it leads to 100.000 extra jobs in installation and maintenance of PV-panels in The Netherlands, that cannot be outsourced. And thirdly, it reduces our carbon dioxide emissions drastically.

 

PowerWindow

 

PowerWindow
Founded in 2014 by Willem Kesteloo and Ferdinad Grapperhaus. Based in Delft.

PowerWindow is participating in the YES!Delft incubator programme. They make a solution that’s a hybrid of a window and a photovoltaic panel. Commercial buildings use a lot of energy and have to become more energy-efficient. Because they rarely have enough roof space, PowerWindow wants to transform glass facades into energy-producing windows. They are currently developing a big-scale prototype of their energy-producing windows and they will realize a pilot project where several PowerWindows will be installed in a big commercial building.

How big is the team?
The two founders plus their professor, who leads the research and applies for funding. PowerWindow is currently looking for a Strategic Product Design intern.

What is the business model?
PowerWindow will sell their product directly to the project developers, who will get a more sustainable building and receives part of his investment back in the form of subsidies.

What are the plans for the future?
They want to have the prototype this September, have the pilot project running in January 2016 and have a commercial project in the second quarter of 2016. After that, expansion is the next goal, both within The Netherlands and in Europe.

Why is solar energy important?
Grapperhaus: “The sun is the only inexhaustible source of energy we can harmlessly use. We have a responsibility to future generations and to everyone on our planet to find a balance between that sun and the earth.

 

Solarswing

 

SolarSwing
Founded in 2012 by Koen van Hees, Sander ten Kate, Stan de Ridder en Sam Kin. Based in Delft

Solar Swing, participant of the YES!Delft incubator programme, is developing advanced screening solutions for buildings. These let through pleasant daylight completely, while filtering blinding sunlight and reducing heath. The sunlight is transformed into energy by photovoltaic cells.

How big is the team?
Twelve people, including the founders

What is the business model?
Solar Swing develops a hardware product, which will be sold using existing connections. Currently several pilot projects are running, but the startup is currently not making a profit yet and is bootstrapping by selling the development hours of their highly specialized team of developers.

What are the plans for the future?
The product will go on sale in 2016, the goal is to have 30 million euro revenue in 2020.

Why is solar energy important?
Kin: “It’s our common future!”

 

WeShareSolar

 

Wesharesolar
Founded in 2012 by Sven Pluut and Matthijs Olieman. Based in Amsterdam

Rockstart alumnus WeShareSolar (zonnepanelendelen in Dutch) finances solar energy through crowdfunding. This way, consumers that don’t have a suitable rooftop can still invest in solar energy, starting at 25 euro.

How big is the team?
Six people including the founders

What is the business model?
WeShareSolar receives a success fee when the project is financed, plus a yearly management fee.

What are the plans for the future?
To realise the largest shared solar project in Europe and to have one million PV-panels installed in The Netherlands. WeShareSolar will expand to the rest of Europe in 2016. As there are no competitors right now, this is the perfect time to expand.

Why is solar energy important?
Vermeulen: “We don’t have an energy problem, we have a financing problem. Every hour, the sun produces the same amount of energy that the world population uses in one year. The living conditions of future generations will benefit from us using the sun in the best way possible.

 

AERspire

 

Aerspire
Founded in 2013 by Alfred van Hese and Esther Philipse. Based in Eindhoven and Heerlen.

AERspire stands for Astetic Energy Roof. They are developing energy-producing building components (roof tiles) for newly built homes and for renovation of existing homes, which are both pleasing to the eye and affordable. The system is modular, ensures maximum energy transfer to the air (cooling), and is mounted to the roof by a mounting system that has been developed in-house. They are looking for financing and partnership opportunities now.

How big is the team?
Ten people are directly and indirectly involved to AERspire.

What is the business model?
AERspire sells a fully installed roof solution to builders, developers and housing corporations. The consumer market will be entered through partnerships. Products are OEM produced in The Netherlands and neighbouring countries.

What are the plans for the future?
Eventually AERspire wants to expand to neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. Different parts of the world will ask for different approaches though, including possibly licensing certain products.

Why is solar energy important?
Philipse: “We have to stimulate the use of sustainable energy, that’s for sure. Of all the possible sustainable energy sources, solar is a relatively ‘easy’ and affordable solution, ready to install in urban environments. What we don’t want though, is streets full of PV-panels, blinking in the sun. That’s why we founded AERspire.”

 

Solar Monkey

 

SolarMonkey
Founded in 2014 by Jan Pieter Versluijs and Mels van Hoolwerff. Based in Delft.

Solar Monkey predicts, guarantees and monitors solar panel output. They are participating in the YES!Delft incubator programme.

How big is the team?
The team currently consists of five people.

What is the business model?
Solar Monkey has partnered up with installers of PV-panels, who do pay Solar Monkey for each report and every output guarantee they supply. Consumers also pay a yearly monitoring fee.

What are the plans for the future?
Together with their installing partners, Solar Monkey wants to install 10.000 solar energy projects each year in The Netherlands, as well as 20.000 in The U.K. and in Germany. Other countries that could follow after that, are France and Italy.

Why is solar energy important?
Versluijs: “Solar energy is the simples and most direct form of energy, which provides every consumer with the opportunity to take part in the production of sustainable energy.”

 

Eternal Sun

 

EternalSun
Founded in 2011 by Chokri Mousaoui and Stefan Roest. Based in Delft.

Eternal Sun supplies high precision and user-friendly large area solar simulators, which generate artificial sunlight of very high accuracy. This technology allows testing of all types of PV module technology. Eternal Sun has been one of the most succesful alumni of the YES!Delft incubator programme and in December 2014 they raised 2 million euro in series A funding.

 

Sensus Energy

 

SensusEnergy

Founded in 2013 by Rolf Huiberts and Callie Peters. Based in Enschede.

Sensus Energy offers custom-­engineered modular solar systems. Because the PV-panels in the systems can be connected in parallel instead of in series, shadow cover of part of the system is less of a problem.

 

Sunbeam

 

Sunbeam
Founded in 2011 by Marco Jansen and Peter Wieriks. Based in Bilthoven, near Utrecht

Sunbeam offers a novel approach to mounting PV-panels on flat rooftops. A simple design should ensure faster installation times at a competitive price. They participate in the UtrechInc incubator programme.

 

Zonnepaneelwijzer

 

Zonnepaneelwijzer
Founded by Bart van den Bosch. Based in Utrecht.

Zonnepaneelwijzer is participating in startup incubator UtrechtInc. The site lets users compare different suppliers and brands of PV-panels and also is an independent source of knowledge about solar technology.

 
Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)

Joffrey Mandersloot
Joffrey is a freelance writer and editor for startupjuncture, with a background in biology and environmental studies.

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