The States are considered the land of the great, though the way to express greatness in the Netherlands lies not in size but in significance. Everybody has at least once heard of Silicon Valley. Likewise, the Dutch Energy Valley can be found in our very own Northern Netherlands, ironically in some of the arguably flattest areas of all: in the provinces of Drenthe, Friesland, Groningen, and the northern part of Noord-Holland. Again, like size, height differences do not count towards the great. As is the case for its American sibling, the region forms a strong concentration of energy production, industry, and knowledge. With both large-scale generation and storage of energy, the Dutch Energy Valley forms a central roundabout in the European gas and electricity grid.
The Northern Netherlands appear to be a driving factor for the formation of the Energy Valley. Considering the favourable location near the ports on the North Sea coast and its infrastructure the region is a flourishing part of the (North-)European energy market. Even more important than simply infrastructure networks is the concentration of knowledge and the efforts of professionals and students contributing to innovate the market, with the Northern Netherlands as a living lab.
The Energy Valley’s knowledge network is also known as the New Energy Coalition. The coalition operates on the corporate level as well as in several interregional projects around the North Sea. It forms a network of knowledge and government institutions, businesses, and NGOs working together to accelerate the energy transition for a sustainable future. Such an environment offers the opportunity to partner up on targeted development projects. As a result, rather convenient preconditions to accelerate the energy transition are set out.
A particular type of research conducted in the Energy Valley pertains to the integration of new energy systems. The transformed energy system aims for more decentralised energy generators, more diversity in supply, and energy behaviour. This means the requirements for energy generation are becoming increasingly complex. Solutions may come as practical solutions like green gas, hydrogen energy, and heat pumps, or policy-wise like district heating and the reuse of existing infrastructural networks. Over the course of the energy transition, existing extraction and purification installations can prove valuable for the storage and transportation of ‘new’ energy.
More than that, the Northern Netherlands appears beneficial in the transition as a living lab with the opportunity to discover energy in rural and urban areas, both covering their specific characteristics and challenges. To illustrate, the urban involves many actors and requires a systemic approach, whereas the rural often involves specific and adaptive needs per single farm.
Then, back to greatness. What is actually great, is that you, as a student and citizen, will be taking part in this living lab. What actually is great, is that the greater Groningen area is where knowledge and practice will collide. And, perhaps, the Groningen area is where you will transform the future.