Wind turbines are turning the wheels on Dutch trains

The Netherlands has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainable transport – the country has almost 20,000 miles of cycle tracks to complement its trams and trains.

dutch, trains, wind power, renewable energy

However, the country has received an even bigger boost with the news this week that one of the country’s largest train operators, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), now solely powers its trains using wind energy.

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The news comes a year earlier than expected, with the target of trains powered by 100% wind energy originally expected in 2018. The news was announced via a video in which the CEO of NS, Roger van Boxtel, was strapped to a windmill overlooking a train track.

The transition to a locomotive network powered by renewable energy is impressive, particularly because of the scale on which the infrastructural network operates: NS schedule 4,800 trains per day, carrying 1.1million passengers across the Netherlands. As such, the success of the transition has been no small task.

Tulip fields in Holland

NS has been working alongside renewable solutions company Eneco, and a 10-year agreement between the two companies has seen the construction of new wind farms in the Netherlands (in the North Sea and an onshore site in Noordoostpolder). Alongside these new projects, electricity was sourced from existing wind farms across the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavia and the UK.

A national rail network has heavy electrical demands; according to statistics released by Eneco, the electricity required by NS trains amounts to just over 1% of the country’s total electricity demand, roughly 1.2 TWh. This is the equivalent of the energy consumed by all households in Amsterdam.

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The move could galvanise similar action across Europe, with the precedent for viable, renewable energy-powered train travel now set. Eneco’s Michel Kerkhof, speaking to Railway Technology in 2015, highlighted the potential knock on effect of the contract:

“What makes this contract and partnership unique, is that a whole sector decreases its CO2 footprint enormously and sets an example for other sectors to follow.”

“Mobility is responsible for 20% of emissions in the Netherlands, and if we want to keep travelling, it is important that we do this without burdening the environment with CO2 and particulate matter. This contract offers all Dutch citizens the option to make a climate-neutral trip.”

As renewable energy begins to hold a greater share of the energy mix, the next issue to resolve is that of the carbon-based travel network. Moving from petroleum based fuels to renewable sources is on the agenda in Costa Rica and in other countries across the globe. This move by NS can only help to push renewables-powered travel further up the agenda.

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