Dutch government invests millions in sustainable energy at the University of Twente

Dutch government invests millions in sustainable energy at the University of Twente

The University of Twente has been awarded a sustainable energy subsidy which may total up to €33.5 million. This subsidy opens the way for the construction of UT’s own power plant fired by pyrolysis oil, a fuel which is extracted from biomass such as wood chips and wood residues. The innovative technology behind this fuel grew out of research conducted by the UT and the power plant will not only enable the University to generate 48 percent of its own electricity, it will even enable it to generate more heat than it consumes. The power plant will, in principle, be operational in 2015.

NL Agency, a division of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, has awarded the University of Twente a sustainable energy subsidy worth a maximum €33.5 million (spread out over twelve years). The definitive subsidy total will be directly linked to the amount of energy generated by the power plant, yet to be built, on the UT campus. The subsidy is intended to compensate for the difference in cost price between the energy derived from natural gas and the energy derived from so-called pyrolysis oil.

Pyrolysis oil
Pyrolysis oil is a product of anaerobic distillation of biomass, such as wood chips or wood residues, in an air-tight chamber heated to 500 °C, with subsequent cooling. The underlying technology was originally developed by researchers at the University of Twente. Biomass Technology Group BV (BTG), a spin-off company of the University of Twente, has specialized in the further technological development of pyrolysis oil. Gerhard Muggen, Managing Director of BTG BioLiquids – a subsidiary of BTG, is heartened by the news that the UT has been awarded a subsidy for the production of this new fuel: “This will increase the demand for pyrolysis oil. Meanwhile, three of our business relations were awarded SDE- (Stimulation of Sustainable Energy Production) subsidies this year to generate energy from pyrolysis oil.”

Sustainable power plant

The power plant, which will involve an investment of around €5 million, is planned for a site on the University of Twente campus (adjacent to the current high pressure laboratory). The power plant will be able to generate 1.6 MW of electricity and 4.0 MW of heat: this corresponds to the electricity consumption of about 3,800 households and to the heat consumption of 2,500 households. The UT may soon generate 48 percent of its own electricity and 145 percent of its heat with the power plant. The power plant is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Sustainable campus

The power plant fits in well with the University of Twente’s sustainability efforts. For example, the UT wants to reduce its energy consumption by 30 percent between 2005 and 2020 and is actively looking to reduce its CO2 footprint through the use of sustainable energy sources, among other methods.

The power plant will also play a role in UT education and research in the fields of process engineering and sustainable energy. Optimization of the turbine will be examined and research will be conducted into whether the fuel can be further improved. More information about the University of Twente’s research on sustainable energy can be found on the website of the UT working partnership: the Green Energy Initiative.

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