Interview with Jeroen van den Berg, manager of EnTranCe, the Groningen innovation centre for future energy systems
‘Of all the innovations in the energy sector, hybrid energy systems that combine the use of electricity and gas have the biggest marketability,’ says Jeroen van den Berg, of innovation centre EnTranCe. ‘For instance, heating boilers combined with a heat pump, and gas fuel cells combined with wind turbines and solar panels, all controlled using smart IT systems.’
Jeroen van den Berg is manager of the Energy Transition Centre in Groningen. EnTranCe is the Groningen centre for innovative energy transition technologies. If offers entrepreneurs and startups the space and opportunity to research new methods. In this way, the centre wants to introduce new technologies to the market. Since its foundation, six innovations have been marketed, making use of solar boilers, fuel cells and smart grid standards.
An example of innovation in gas technology that is getting a lot of attention in Groningen is the production of green gas. ‘Some of our entrepreneurs are working on high-pressure fermentation systems, which can quickly convert biomass into green gas. It is a part of the bio-based economy. It uses plants and residual energy from the agricultural and food industries to produce energy, fuel, chemicals and other resources.’
‘Tests have shown that we can charge electric cars wirelessly, also when driving.’
The decentralized balance of energy demand and supply also gets a lot of attention. ‘We are looking into relieving high-tensions networks, where there is sufficient supply of wind or solar energy, through clever use of the distribution networks. For instance, by only turning washing machines when there is sufficient supply, and turning off the heat pump.’
Researchers and entrepreneurs in Groningen are also looking into ways to organize traffic systems in a more sustainable manner. One example is the wireless charging of electric cars. Tests have shown that it is possible to charge cars both when they are parked and when they’re driving.
EnTranCe does not carry out research itself, but is mainly a facilitator. ‘We rent out high-quality laboratories with large workshops, ponds, wind and solar installations.’ According to Van den Berg, SME’s can really take advantage of the expensive installations. ‘They can also easily collaborate with large businesses in the energy sector, and we get a lot of students. Those are all potential employees.’
The EnTranCe manager thinks that the coming five to ten years will determine the success of the energy transition. ‘In the Netherlands, the transition will come from businesses that innovate and see economic opportunities, not from a centralized government that changes its policies every four years.’
EnTranCe was set up by the Hanzehogeschool Groningen (University of Applied Sciences) and is part of the Energy Academy Europe. The centre is supported by companies such as BAM, Imtech, Gasunie and GasTerra.