Solar Magazine – Heylen Warehouses: ‘Solar panels indispensable, but not a standalone technology’

“We are not so much hampered by technology or economics, but by rules. It does not change the fact that we are going at full steam. ‘ That is the opinion of Marco Iacovella, Program Manager Energy & Sustainability at Heylen Warehouses.

In Venlo, the most powerful solar cell roof in the world went online at the end of 2020. This was realized at the VE-COMMERCE Logistic Campus in Heylen Warehouses. With this, the logistics real estate company, which strives for sustainability on all fronts, has taken an important step towards the goal of 100 megawatts peak solar panels by 2022. However, it is already clear that it will not achieve.

The Belgian Heylen Group was founded 21 years ago by Wim Heylen. In 2022, the company consists of 33 companies and employs around 2,800 people. The group is active in several European countries and covers a wide range of industries, including consumer products, food, fintech, business & events and logistics properties. Heylen Warehouses develops, leases and manages warehouses and logistics distribution centers. Where possible, they are mounted with solar panels on the roof.

3 times as much
“As a family business, we take sustainable business for granted, not just in words but also in action,” says Iacovella. “By developing logistics properties, we take something away from the environment, and we also want to give it back: socially, ecologically and economically. In connection with the energy conversion, generating green power using solar panels is an obvious choice. We have a lot of roof space available for this. It is also interesting because our buildings need to switch to gas-free heating, and in light of the increase in electric road transport for people and freight transport. It is also a revenue model to transform our distribution centers into power plants as well. ‘

A lot of profit
Heylen Warehouses’ customers also want to reduce their CO2 footprint, based on inherent motivation, and because their shareholders and the companies they work for ask them to. By installing solar panels on the roofs of logistics centers, Heylen Warehouses gives them significant added value, especially in light of current energy prices. Given their surface area, the roofs of the buildings are more than sufficient to meet the users’ (growing) needs for electricity. ‘And more than that. If we fill them with solar panels, there is usually a significant surplus that can be delivered to companies and households in the area ‘, says Iacovella. This touches on a current problem: in many places in the Netherlands, there is severe congestion on the electricity grid.

Great catch up
Iacovella: ‘I took my first steps in the world of solar energy at Scheuten Solar. Since then, I have been heavily involved in the industry. Grid problems in relation to the roll-out of solar panels is a worldwide phenomenon and at all times. I remember, for example, the power outages in Greece and Spain around 2008, countries that at the time were much further ahead in the field of green energy than the Netherlands. That delay later proved to be an advantage. Thanks to the ever-decreasing costs of PV, the Netherlands has been able to catch up significantly with low social costs. Now it runs up against the constraints of the power grid. It simply has to be handled, there are sufficient technical and financial resources. In Flanders, where there is almost no solar energy developed on land, this problem is handled differently. For example, there is a duty to dimension solar-on-roof according to user profile and network operators can remotely switch off solar energy systems if necessary. This kind of regulation is useful for now, but it obviously limits the acceleration of the energy transition. ‘

Read the full article in the May 2022 issue of Solar Magazine here.

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