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Climate Change: Let’s Go Back to the Future

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When thinking in stereotypes, the list for what is referred to by ‘typically Dutch’ would probably look something like this: cheese, dykes, tulips, bikes, wooden shoes, Anne Frank-house, Rembrandt, pot, Zwarte Piet and mills. All of them pretty interesting things to blog about, but since my specialty on sustainable storytelling I’d like to tell you something about mills.

 
 

The Dutch started to use mills for agricultural purposes in the 12th century. By 1650, they had thousands of mills, mainly for the use of cutting and grinding wood for building ships and making paper, but also to keep our wetlands dry and getting fresh drinking water up from under the ground. You rarely see Dutch seventeenth century landscape art without a mill popping up in the background. In that time, there might have been some people objecting against the looks or sounds the wicks made on a stormy day, but since the mills quadrupled the possibilities for employment I guess people chose their battles wisely.

 
 

What irony: mills (wind energy, clean, sustainable) gradually declined because of the invention of the steam machine (fossil fuels, polluting, destructive). Most of them were shut down or even torn down, but fortunately there are enough left to attract lots of tourists to Holland every year, the other half of it, the ones who are not interested in spending their time and money in the Red Light District. Nowadays the Dutch are really proud of their ancient mills, presenting them on many merchandising along cheese and tulips.

 
 

I wonder:

Are the Dutch people able to reinvent the mills to contribute to increasing renewable energy?

 
 

I see a win win situation: the Dutch are at the bottom of the European list when it comes to reducing the emission of carbon dioxide. Secondly, they once experienced the success of using wind mills and they still cherish them. Who knows Dutch ancient mills producing wind energy again might be the answer…

 
 
 

Reggetroom from the Netherlands had exactly the same thought. It’s a local renewable energy cooperation, uses used a traditional mill De Hoop (built in 1845) for generating renewable energy. With an advanced system produced in Denmark, the wheels empower two generators that produces 40.000 to 60.000 KwH of hundred percent clean energy in a year. Of course it took a lot of time to get the idea into practice and finding investors seemed almost impossible. Almost: after some crowd funding, the DOEN Foundation financed the start of it. Now this fund, sponsored by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, really understands that taking risks sometimes is necessary to really change a system. So this really works, what’s next?

 
 

Instead of concentrating on the ancient mills, there are some pretty good Dutch examples of solid, attractive models to promote wind energy. The Wind Centrale was the first to make a proposition for consumers that was really attractive: why not buy a wind mill and divide it into thousand little pieces, the so called ‘wind shares’? If you buy 7 pieces it is enough to empower your own household (3.500 KwH). In 2013 they had a crowdfunding record raising 1.3 Million Euro in just 13 hours. With help (again from the DOEN Foundation) they managed to buy the first two wind mills and now they have nine, shared with Dutch inhabitants, in 60.000 wind shares. They present a model that stands for an excellent and scalable example in stimulating wind energy anywhere in the world.

 
 

Last but not least, just this week, a small Dutch renewable energy company and cooperation called Qurrent, combined all examples mentioned in this blog: using innovative and scalable models for increasing sustainable energy, but also thinking of a way to make the Dutch proud of their new inventions. Qurrent came up with ideas for creating a landscape that people don’t disapprove of, in fact, will probably make them very happy: to transform a wind farm into the world’s first sustainable theme park! This is the kind of thinking our generation needs: turning something good with a negative image in something good that we’re really proud of. That increases the chance of being adapted by the crowd . Imagine hundred years from now museums showing Dutch paintings with wind farm roller coasters in the back ground.

 
 

Maybe the Dutch will increase their list of attractions so tourists will also come to Holland to visit this eco wind park with wind-powered attractions such as the ‘Newton Nightmare’ – even the ones that are merely interested in the Red Light District might be challenged for a ride.

 
 

Let’s go Back to the future like the Dutch, and integrate old, clean energy traditions and turning them into modern ideas that are not only good for us and our planet, but also gives us something to be proud again.

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