Squirrel bridge

December 6th, 2016

Squirrel bridges like these also amount to the apparent 6000 wildlife crossings internet memes tend to brag about.

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The country of the future

November 30th, 2016

Recently, someone pointed me to a video on Facebook praising The Netherlands for being the country of the future, backed by 7 facts. Sadly, a lot of these facts are mixed with fiction to such an extent it is safe to call them a fabrication or the result of wishful thinking.

1 The video states that The Netherlands is the only country in the world without stray dogs.
Although stray dogs are rare, stating it is the only country without stray dogs equates to jumping to conclusions.

2 There indeed is a solar powered bike lane which was opened in 2014. It has become common practice all over the world to fit all kinds of surfaces with solar panels.
The SolaRoad in Krommenie might indeed be the first purpose built cycling path equipped with solar panels, but one of the main reasons therefore lies in the fact it is not common practice elsewhere in the world to even build specific roads for cyclists only in the first place.

3 The video states there are charging points for cars every 50 meters.
In The Netherlands, there are roughly 18000 charging stations for cars – on a total surface of 41.5 square kilometers.
You don’t need to be a math geek to figure out hundreds of thousands charging stations would be needed to find one every 50 meters – unless, of course, you’re patient enough to charge a car by using a regular wall outlet.

4 There are no cars on some of the Frisian Islands, and in some small towns like Giethoorn and Orvelte. This is, however, exceptional. The Dutch are glued to their car to an extent it’d require a thermal lance to separate them from it – even if other means of transport are faster, cheaper or more economical or efficient, the car remains their preferred means of travel.

5 In April 2016, motion was backed by a majority of the House of Representatives calling to strive for merely selling zero-emission cars by 2025. This does in no way mean diesel or gasoline powered cars will be banned, or that they will no longer be available by 2025. The Dutch government has neither the intention nor the ability to sign a ban on combustion engines into law.

6 The video states 19 prisons had to shut down due to low crime rates.
There were plans to close 26 prisons between 2013 and 2018 and build 2 new ones. A majority of these have indeed closed their doors.
Though statistics do prove there is a decline in crime and there are significantly less people imprisoned than a decade ago, the closures lined out in the Masterplan DJI 2013-2018 are mainly meant to cut costs. As facilities close, electronically monitored house arrest is on the rise and it bacame common to house two detainees in one prison cell rather than one person per cell. All these measures add up, so it is an exaggeration to state dozens of prisons had to close because there is less crime. That’s just one single piece of the puzzle.

7 The video states there are 6000 wildlife crossings. This statement is accompanied by an image of an impressive ecoduct, spanning a 6 lane motorway.
In reality, 68 so called ecoducts are (being) built. Aside from those, there, obviously, also are simpler animal crossings in use, like squirrel bridges, toad tunnels and level deer crossings. Even if you take all these into account, the number 6000 is a blatent overstatement raising false assumptions.

Though parts of the aforementioned video are flattering, on a whole, exaggerations and misrepresentations of facts does more wrong than good.

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2121

November 28th, 2016

The Belgian brewer Brussels Beer Project recently wrote out a competition in which people are invited to suggest new kinds of beer.
The ones I have suggested are these;

Beerdrop
http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1727

Porter brought to taste with licorice, aniseed and caramel, giving it the aroma and flavour of licorice. In The Netherlands, this candy is referred to using the word drop and the average Dutchman munches away 2 kilograms of it per year.

Nat Neuzeke
http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1729

Another wildly popular candy are cuberdons, also known as Gentse Neuzekes. The candy consists mainly of sugar, gum arabic and raspberry.
In beer, it would resemble a framboise with a mildly higher viscosity than usual, to recreate the mouthfeel of actual cuberdons.

KBAC.eu
http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1730

In the former Soviet republics, kvass is a more popular softdrink than Coca Cola.
It is made from old bread, yeast and water. Due to the absence of hops, kvass is not considered beer, yet it is closely related, and, though an aquired taste, it deserves more appreciation in the West than it is currently getting.
KBAC is the homogryph of kvass written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

MMXVII
http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1731

Cervesia inspired by the recipe the Romans used 2017 years ago.

Until November 30th it is possible to vote for one or all of these suggestions by following the aforementioned links, and leaving a rating of 1-5.
If I win, I promise to buy a round of drinks :)

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De bierwedstrijd

November 24th, 2016

Brusselse bierbrouwer Brussels Beer Project heeft een prijsvraag uitgeschreven waarin wordt gevraagd naar creatieve suggesties voor nieuwe biervarianten. De suggestie met de meeste stemmen wordt straks daadwerkelijk eenmalig gebrouwen.
Hartstikke leuk, natuurlijk, en daarom heb ik besloten mee te doen, en in te zetten op wat meer uitgesproken smaken als tegenhanger voor de tegenwoordige vaak zo allesoverheersende hopbitterheid. Mijn inzendingen zijn deze;

Beerdrop.
Een rijke porter met een dropachtige afdronk dankzij de toevoeging van zoethout en steranijs.

http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1727

Nat Neuzeke.
Een fris lentebier die dankzij de toevoeging van frambozen qua smaak wat lijkt op Gentse cuberdons.


http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1729

KBAC.eu
Het West-Europese antwoord op de on Oost-Europa ongekend populaire dorstlesser kvass.
KBAC is het homogrief voor de Cyrillische spelling van kvass.


http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1730

Speciaal voor de gelegenheid is deze pagina ook bereikbaar via KBAC.eu en KBAC.nl :)

MMXVII
Geschiedenis in een fles. Cervesia zoals de Romeinen het 2017 jaar geleden al maakten.


http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1731

Stemmen kan via de bovenstaande links. Iedere inzending kan beoordeeld worden met 0-5 kroondoppen en er is geen maximum aan het aantal beoordelingen dat je mag geven.
Natuurlijk zou ik nóóóóit bedelen om stemmen, maar iedere klik wordt gewaardeerd, en mocht ik iets winnen dan geef ik uiteraard een rondje :p

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Vrijdag de dertiende

May 13th, 2016

De laatste hand willen leggen aan een perfect verwoorde email, en door een misklik het hele tekstvak selecteren en vervangen door een spatie. Da’s vrijdag de dertiende.

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Jakarta

February 12th, 2016

On the first morning of my stay, I join my host on her way to work. This involves a ride on the back of a moped, two short hauls aboard a minivan and a trip in her colleague’s car. We’ll have breakfast in the local market at a stall going by the name ibu Rita. Food containers with ready made meals are on display, and upon request they get served on a plate. Delicious. Then, breakfast gets washed away with delight black coffee from a fully operational roaster named Rosso. Java often is associated with coffee, and that’s for a reason. My tastebuds shamelessly feasts on this cup of black gold. What a delight :)
From here, I am helped onto an express bus taking me to central Jakarta. Though, well, Jakarta is so spread out, even the center is rather large. It is nice and impressive to walk amidst its colossal cityscape filled with shiny highrises. After some walking, I reach the landmark of the city, better known as Monas, which, indeed, means National Monument. A proud arrow shaped statue, rising up into the sky and housing a museum in its base. A museum which, sadly, appears to be closed.
To stay hydrated, I buy a small bottle of soda on a nearby market. Two guys try to persuade me into playing a game that involves throwing woorden rings toward packs of cigarettes. I kindly dismiss their offer, stating I’m a non-smoker.
In the park surrounding the Monas several other statues are found. One of the most striking ones is a statue showing three Javanese women, of which one is dancing and another breastfeeding a child.
From here, it is my intention to visit a Padan restaurant. Fate had other plans, though, and some heavy tropical rainfall caused me to look for shelter at a coffee place that also proved to serve beer and food. Not what I had in mind, but still rather good, and a good way to mentally prepare myself for the way back home. The first leg of that trip proved easy and convenient. The new Transjakarta bus system uses designated lanes, allowing it to zoom past traffic, and all that’s needed to ride it is opening a gate by gently tapping it with a smartcard, deducting 3500 rupiah from the balance stored on it.This brought me to Blok M fast and in a convenient fashion.
The rest of the trip proved a bit less convenient. Having to go to a part of the city not yet served by transJakarta sentenced me to using MetroMini. Small orange and blue buses equipped with seats that’re officially too small to accommodate me. My upper legs are simply too long to fit in between my own seatrest and the one in front of me. Traffic is dense and only moving forward slowly, and the interior of the bus is rather noisy, due to driving with opened doors and street musicians jumping in here and there to play a short set and walk around the bus carrying an empty foil bag, collecting money. The noise and the smoke has a noticable effect. My eyes sting, my throat hurts, my head aches and you can actually taste the carbohydrates in the air. Compared to this, the very last leg of the trip is easy. At There are lots of intersections where motorcyclists casually seem to hang out, but when passing by their true intention becomes obvious. These are ojeks, working as an informal kind of taxi service. Hitching a ride is easy, and before you know it, I’m back where this day started.

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Dubai

February 11th, 2016

After a miniature pub crawl through terminal A of DxB, it’s time to move toward the gate from where my flight to Jakarta will depart. I pick up the local English language newspaper, with the intention to read it aboard the plane. From the gate, a bus drives us onto the tarmac to a Boeing 777 parked in a rather remote location.
Again, the plane is not filled to capacity, and again I’ve got three seats at my disposal to nap on. THE magic trick to prevent jetlag.
Despite sleeping throughout most of the flight, my onboard data usage proved rather high. The explanation; one of the apps on my phone has the tendency to backup all photos taken to cloud storage, _if_ it is night, connected to a charger and a wifi network. In this day and age of transatlantic fibre optic cables, it feels kinda oldschool, knowing my photos are now relayed via satellite for a change.
Interesting when taking into account I only bought a data package for this leg of the flight in order to look up the address of my sponsor, to fill out on the immigration form.
Once in Jakarta, it took me some time to find the right line to enter the country through, but eventually I found the booth where I could get my visa stamped. After the usual rituals, involving withdrawing money in local currency, toilet break, gathering luggage and purchasing a local SIM card with a pleasantly bulky 4G data allowance. Just no not run out.

Then, it is time to take a first breath of sultry, humid tropical air. Mixed with exhaust fumes, but still, the warmth and waving palm trees, knowing people back home still experience winter is a delight.
Two of my acquiantances are coming to pick me up. First thing they do as we leave the parking lot is the huge billboard, announcing the solar eclipse. This looks promising.
Afterward we opt for coffee. This brought us to a rather generic mall away from the city, but it’s always a good thing to share food and beverages in good company. My first ever visit to Indonesia has officially started.

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Schiphol

February 10th, 2016

As much time you may or may not dedicate to packing and heading to the airport, eventually you do end up feeling rushed. In this event, I blame Microsoft for that. Before leaving, I wanted to perform the recomended monthly test of the ground fault circuit breaker I so often end up skipping, before switching off all circuits except for the one feeding the fridge. Yet, my laptop decided it was a good time to install updates and service packages just as I made my way to the circuit board and I decided it would be better to leave it powered for the time being and wait until it finished. This actually bought me some time to take out a last bag of trash, so Johan Cruijff was right when he said “Elk nadeel hep z’n voordeel”

Though I had already checked in online yesterday, it does give peace of mind to have dropped off all checked luggage and be cleared by customs. Arriving at the railway platform minutes after the train left and having to wait for another to arrive did, obviously, not bring me any closer to this peace of mind – but it should, yes should, be manageable to be at the counter before it closes. And indeed, I did arrive at the counter more than one and a half hours before the scheduled departure of the flight, and after being greeted by ecceptionally friendly ground staff and dropping off my luggage, it is time to go through customs. Beside the booths where humans perform the passport checks, there are now some automated gates, apparently able to optically read out passports and
match it with the info on the RFID chip. It appears The Netherlands secretly seceded from the European Union, though – because, when I tried it, a message popped claiming these gates are only to be used by EU citizens. Which, to my best knowledge, I still am…

Not feeling any urge to shop or visit a cafe, I decide to manage some last emails and such near the gate where the gracious little bird that’ll bring me to Dubai is already parked. The difference in size is striking, compared to the Aeroflot jet at the adjacent gate. Obviously, I take some pictures. I still have that awkward hobby of wanting to snap an image of every plane I’ve ever flown on. Why? It just happens to be one of the things you start doing and never stop with.

As the gate opens, the same ground stewardess who initially printed my boardung pass and issued the claim ticket for my bag also is the one scanning my boarding pass and granting entrance to the gate. It takes significantly less time to embark the plane than the previous time I flew to Dubai, but the reason behind that is that the economy class of this flight is not nearly filled to capacity. I’ve got an entire row of seats aboard this A380 at my disposal, which proves a great opportunity to get some rest. As much as I dislike reclining seatbacks, that much I appreciate being able to occupy three or four seats at once and turn them into a makeshift bed. though they offer literally thousands of things to do or watch aboard this flight, nothing beats getting some sleep – or, well, sleep, and the ability to connect to the internet throughout the flight. What happened to Justine Sacco in 2013 has become a thing of the past :)

In Dubai, there’s a four hour layover. Leaving plenty of time for some food and drinks. The airline issued a meal voucher, which bought me a sandwich and a soda – and afterward, my creditcard bought me a delightful cup of coffee, and a Lebanese lager to pass the time until the gate opens for my flight to Jakarta.

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Nog 120 jaartjes slapen..

October 7th, 2015

Op de kop af 120 jaar na vandaag, op 7 oktober 2135, zal er eindelijk, voor het eerst sinds 1715, weer een totale zonsverduistering zichtbaar zijn in Nederland! Ik kan haast niet wachten!

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Weird Al Yankovic

October 1st, 2015

Wie een goed gevoel voor humor heeft, heeft zich gisteravond uitstekend kunnen vermaken bij het optreden van Weird Al Yankovic in de Melkweg. Het is zelfs niet nodig er heel veel woorden aan vuil te maken. Het was gewoon twee uur lang feest op het podium, met heel veel kostuumwisselingen, hoogtepunten uit een oeuvre dat vier decennia omspant en veelr ecent werk, een uitstekende begeleidingsband, en het begin van het optreden zal zelfs indruk hebben gemaakt op mensen die n´&eaucte;t bij het concert aanwezig waren. Een optreden beginnen, door middenop het Leidseplein het eerste nummer in te zetten, quasi casual daarvandaan naar de zijingang van de Melkweg te lopen en daarna, al zingend, het podium letterlijk te beklimmen. Vanuit de zaal allemaal zichtbaar op de backdrop achter het podium, maar toch ook zeker geen onopvallende verschijning voor de terrasjesmensen op het Leidseplein en de mensen die voor de ingang van de Sugarfactory in de rij stonden voor het optreden van Lou Barlow.
Weird Al Yankovic is geen baas, maar een ware grootmeester, en hij verdient niet alleen een standbeeld, maar ook een heel museum.

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Energiek dagje

September 25th, 2015

23 september 2015, drie uur ‘s middags verzamelen zich een handvol startups die zijn voortgekomen uit UtrechtInc, de incubator van Universiteit Utrecht. Zij zullen zich vandaag presenteren voor een select groepje genodigden. Een unieke wisselwerking. De aanwezigen krijgen een interessant kijkje in de dynamische wereld buiten de eigen organisatie. Dapper, want bijna alle bedrijfjes die zich hier presenteren vissen in dezelfde vijver, zie het ieder op zijn eigen manier, met een eigen visie.

De dag wordt ingeleid met een mooi praktijkvoorbeeld van één van de zich presenterende bedrijven die een project is gestart waarbij de klanten van een groot elektriciteitsbedrijf de mogelijkheid geboden wordt zonnepanelen te gaan huren. De daarbij opgedane ervaringen zullen voor beide betrokken partijen meer inzicht geven in een deel van de markt dat nog goeddeels onontgonnen terrein is. Deze samenwerking wordt vergeleken met een date “zonder meteen te trouwen.”

Hierna volgt een mooi betoog over intrapeneurship; het scheppen van een klimaat binnen een bedrijf, waarin het personeel zelf met creatieve nieuwe ideeen komt, en deze aktief verder ontwikkelt en in de markt zet. De boodschap daarvan is eigenlijk tweeledig. Niet alleen een stukje inspiratie voor de mensen op de werkvloer om een visie niet onuitgesproken te laten, maar ook een signaal naar hogere managementslagen om niet bang te zijn dat het eigen personeel er op termijn met alle klanten vandoor zal gaan. Als voorbeeld wordt aangehaald hoe Gmail is ontstaan uit het knutselwerk van een medewerker van Google, die van zijn werkgever daartoe de vrije hand heeft gekregen. Verder wordt de transitie van de mijnbouwbedrijven DSM en 3M gegeven, die zich allebei hebben omgeturnd tot producent van van alles en nog wat.

Nu is het de beurt aan de startups om zich te presenteren. Wat mij heel erg opvalt; de drie startups Senfall, Cohere en Solease zijn elk in hun eigen niche bezig, maar schuren wel redelijk dicht tegen elkaar aan en zouden elkaar uitstekend kunnen versterken. Senfall is op de keper beschouwd gewoon een energieleverancier, die net als alle anderen groothandelsvolumes elektriciteit inkoopt en dit verkoopt aan haar klanten. Waar Senfall afwijkt van de traditionele electriciteitsbedrijven is dat deze al vooruitloopt op de markt van morgen, waarin het elektriciteitsnet slim is, en de prijs van minuut tot minuut kan stijgen of dalen, afhankelijk van vraag en aanbod. Ze hebben algoritmes ontwikkeld die op basis van de actuele vraag en aanbod van elektriciteit verbruikers in of uit kunnen schakelen, om zo vraag en aanbod zo goed mogelijk op elkaar af te stemmen. Als voorbeeld hiervan worden industriële koelcellen en de pompen van waterschappen benoemd. In al die gevallen is er een bandbreedte waarbinnen alles eigenlijk wel okee is. In een vriescel die niet te warm of te koud is, mag het best een beetje warmer worden als er even niet gekoeld hoeft te worden, maar kan er ook eerder dan nodig weer begonnen worden met bijkoelen als de prijzen dalen omdat het hard waait of de zon volop schijnt.
Datzelfde geldt voor het op peil houden van rioolputten of het grondwaterpeil in de polder. Afhankelijk van de elektriciteitsmarkt is het uitstekend mogelijk wat eerder of later beginnen met pompen zonder dat dit direkt tot overstromingen leidt. Eigenlijk haast te vergelijken met de tijd dat polders nog met windmolens werden drooggehouden; als het even kan pomp je alles weg als het daar hard genoeg voor waait.
Op een heel andere manier doet Cohere iets soortgelijks. Zij verkopen zelf geen stroom, maar wel manieren om slimmer met elektriciteit om te gaan. Hierbij richten ze zich heel sterk op de eigenaars van elektrische auto’s, die tegelijkertijd met het installeren van een autolaadpunt en/of zonnepanelen een kastje aan kunnen laten sluiten dat het complete elektriciteitsverbruik van de gehele woning constant bemetert en op basis daarvan de elektrische auto sneller of langzamer laat laden. Naar keuze kan deze een auto supersnel opladen, door alles wat de huisaansluiting over heeft naar de autoaccu te sturen. Er kan echter ook voor gekozen worden alleen de opbrengst van de eigen zonnepanelen naar de auto te sturen. Dit maakt het mogelijk de auto vol te tanken zonder daarbij stroom uit het openbare net te hoeven kopen.
Startup Solease is tijdens de inleiding al aan het woord geweest, en wat zij doen is inmiddels duidelijk; ze verhuren zonnepanelen aan particulieren. De huurprijs ligt beneden de inkoopprijs van de door de panelen geleverde elektriciteit, dus iedereen met een geschikt dak kan vanaf dag één bespáren op z’n maandlasten.
Een combinatie van de huurzonnepanelen van Solease op het dak, de hardware van Cohere in de meterkast en de software van Senfall die apparaten in- of uitschakelt en je hebt een perfect enerziezuinig en slim huis dat zo min mogelijk stroom uit het net inkoopt of eraan teruglevert.

De overige startups die aan het woord komen zijn Sustanalyze, Cashwijzer en Repurpose. Stuk voor stuk mooie projecten en initiatieven om rekening mee te houden.
Cashwijzer is een bedrijf dat belooft te ontzorgen en besparen; geef hun een schoenendoos vol verzekeringspolissen en nutsproducten, en zij stappen voor je over naar een goedkopere bank, verzekeraar, kabelaanbieder, telecommaatschappij, internetprovider et cetera. Gegarandeerd tegen dezelfde of betere voorwaarden en tegen een lagere prijs – plus de garantie dat de kosten van hun consult lager uit zullen vallen dan de gerealiseerde besparing.
Repurpose en Sustanalyze zijn beide bedrijven met een mooi duurzaam doel voor ogen. Repurpose herbruikt bouwmaterialen die anders na sloop of verbouwing gestort zouden worden, en maakt daar esthetisch fraaie nieuwe dingen van. Als concrete voorbeelden worden een muur van oude deuren en een stoep betegeld met afgedankte vensterbanken aangedragen. De begeleidende foto’s die door de beamer op groot scherm worden geprojecteerd maken indruk.
Sustanalyze gooit het over een heel andere boeg. Akshay Patel vertelt over zijn kantoren in Nederland en India waar onderzoekers en ontwikkelaars aktief worden ondersteund in hun werk en waar wordt gestreefd naar het produceren van eigenlijk alles, met zo min mogelijk impact voor veiligheid en leefomgeving. Een mooi streven, maar misschien net iets te abstract voor dit publiek. Meteen na afloop van de presentaties is er tijd persoonlijk van gedachten te wisselen met de mensen achter deze startups, en daarbij blijft het tafeltje van Akshay angstvallig leeg, terwijl het juist drukte van belang is bij het tafeltje van Senfall. Er wordt druk gevist naar het geheim achter hun software. Hoe voorspelt deze de onbalans in het net? Prognoses op basis van de APX-prijs van gisteren? Fluctuaties in de lichtnetfrequentie? De jongens van Senfall houden wijselijk hun kaarten dicht tegen de borst en laten alleen maar los dát hun algoritme werkt en zich al in de praktijk bewijst, maar zeggen niet hóé. Wel volgt de boodschap dat ze van harte bereid zijn een licentieovereenkomst te sluiten met energiebedrijven die iets met hun platform zouden willen doen. Waarvan akte.
Daarna sluit ik me aan bij het groepje dat spreekt met Jan-Willem Heinen van Cohere. Qua hardware niet veel meer dan een industriële computer en wat meetspoelen in de meterkast, maar onder de motorkap zit ook hier een doordacht stukje software. Dat verklaart meteen waarom Cohere zich richt op mensen die elektrisch gaan rijden; bij het aansluiten van de laadpaal moet de groepenverdeelkast toch open, en kan de installateur zonder veel extra moeite de apparatuur van Cohere inbouwen. In de toekomst zou de auto ook dienst kunnen gaan doen als thuisbatterij, zodat de wasmachine op momenten met weinig wind of zon tóch kan draaien, op de accu van de Tesla op de oprit.
Eventjes dwalen mijn gedachten af naar dat megagrote pand in Amsterdam Zuidoost waarin het Europese hoofdkwartier van Tesla huist. Wat een gemis dat er geen enkel zonnepaneel of zonneboiler te bekennen is op het o zo saaie zwarte, platte bitumendak van d´t gebouw – terwijl het moederbedrijf van Tesla hectares en hectares goedkope woestijngrond in Texas en Utah volplempt met panelen. Jammer. In een klein en dichtbevolkt land als Nederland is het tenslotte geen overbodige luxe om slim met grond om te gaan. Wat is een mooier voorbeeld van efficient en intensief bodemgebruik dan het energieverbruik van een gebouw te verlagen door een paar platen op het dak te schroeven? Dit was ook meteen de kernboodschap van het idee waarin ik zelf in maart 2015 meedeed aan een ideeënwedstrijd, waarbij ik voorstelde om platte daken van appatementscomplexen en bedrijfsverzamelgebouwen zo goed mogelijk in te richten voor de opwek van zonneenergie, en deze naar rato te verdelen onder de gebruikers van deze panden. Zonder rendements- en transportverliezen bij opwek en transport, en zonder transportkosten voor de eindgebruiker, waardoor de consumentenprijs per kilowattuur zelfs l&aaucte;ger is dan die van stroom uit de fabriek. In een iets aangapaste, meer op coolroofing gerichte, vorm doet ditzelfde idee mee aan een andere ideeënwedstrijd. Tot maandag 28 september kan er nog op mijn idee gestemd worden via https://www.voordewereldvanmorgen.nl/duurzame-projecten/coolroofnl.

Na afloop van de groepsgesprekken aan tafel komt er een eind aan het formele programma, en is het tijd om informeel te genieten van kaasblokjes en cola. Daarbij spreek ik nog even kort met Pierre Vermeulen van Solease die prachtig kan verhalen over de drie jaar dat hij in India woonde en werkte, en de problemen die een overbelast electriciteitsnet, slecht geïsoleerde gebouwen en loeiende airco’s met zich meebrengen. Dit bevestigt mijn gedachte dat coolroofing meer dan de moeite waard is.
Ook Pierre’s visie op de arbeidsmarkt, waarbij mensen niet puur worden gewaardeerd op het feit dat ze elke dag netjes van acht tot vijf in een geestdodend saai kantoor achter hun computer zitten met een treurniswekkend bakje automatenkoffie in een plastic bekertje bij de hand, maar waar het meer gaat om wat de persoon feitelijk gedaan krijgt, ongeacht het moment of de plek waar dat gebeurt. Ik vraag of dat niet leidt tot een cultuur van digital nomads, die hun kantooromgeving verruilen voor bijvoorbeeld een hangmat op Bali. Blij verrast hoor ik Pierre zeggen dat hij dat wel prima zou vinden. Mooi om te horen, en een mooi, inspirerend einde van een inspirerende bijeenkomst.

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The Theater Experience

September 19th, 2015

Some things are worth waiting for. October 26th, 2014, 05:27 AM I bought a ticket to a concert to be held nearly a full year later. It felt awkward to buy a concert ticket nearly a year in advance, but this, this was nothing but a no-brainer. I had to be there. And what’s a year if you’ve been secretly wishing for this to happen for a full decade?
In 2004 musical mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen released his sixth Ayreon studio album. A host of musicians brought together for a stunning 2 disc concept album The Human Equation. Just like the previous 5 album released under the Ayreon bandname, the entire album tells a story, and each song can be compared to a chapter in a book. Each song broadens and deepens the experience.
While listening, it remains essential to read along in the CD booklet to keep track of everything happening, and even then it’s a wild a wild and intense rollercoaster you want to ride again as soon as you’ve recovered from the previous ride. And during that second, third, fourth ride you’ll discover even more layers and depths in the brilliant storylines.
Sadly, the only way this music could be enjoyed was by playing the studio albums. The Ayreon website hosts an FAQ, and one of the most freqently asked questions is whether the music will ever be performed live on stage. The answer given on the website to that is negative. Wikipedia, too, clearly states that “Due to its particular nature, Ayreon was never played live” – but to every rule there’s an exception, and that one exception happens to happen this very weekend.
Though, personally, I still am particularly fond of the very first Ayreon album “The final experiment” and always hoped it would be made into a movie. Anime, obviously, since to me it has a rather distinct Ghibli‘esque aura surrounding it. Partially due to the awkward mixture of fantasy and science fiction found in “The Final Experiment”. Which, also, explains why “The Human Equation” is the story fit to be turned into a stage performance. Rather than in a world occupied by magicians and spaceships, it takes place in a world where people commute from home to their busy jobs by cars, and where people do and experience things we all can relate to. More than a decade after the release of “The Human Equation” it’s performed as a stage play under the name “The Theater Equation” – One weekend only, one venue only.

September 18th, 2015. The long wait is rewarded. A train ride takes me to Rotterdam Centraal, from where I walk toward the Erasmusbrug – which brings me to the opposite side of the river, where the Nieuwe Luxor Theater is located, and therein restaurant Leipzig, where I’ll enjoy a three course meal prior to the concert.
The concert itself is everything one could expect and more. The stage is set with a car wreck, hospital bed and other props needed to play out the entire rock opera as if it were a Broadway musical – and it works. The music and acting complement each other, and rather than having to read, listen and digest at the same time to keep up with the storyline, when played out the story literally unfolds before your own eyes in an even more incisive way than when listening to the album alone. As if you’re actually witnessing it.

The one time I got slightly distracted was during the song “Loser” – because, for me, there’s an interesting anecdote attached to that song.
In June 2004, a mere month after The Human Equation was released, I visited the Arrow Rock Festival. Shortly before Alice Cooper would start his performance, a tall, long haired figre clearly recognized as Arjen Lucassen stood amidst the crowd, and chanted parts of the lyrics of “Loser” – obviously because the original lead vocalist on that song, the late Mike Baker, deliberately tried to sound like Alice Cooper, because that tone of voice fit the role of “father” in The Human Equation so well. Obviously, I was rather pleased that this happened within earshot, and that it made sense to me. For some reason I was under the impression only a fraction (if any) of the other people in front of the tented stage were aware who this tall long haired guy in their midst was, and why he kept shouting the word “loser” while awaiting Alice Cooper to hit the stage.

Aside from that one moment my mind wandered off to an amusing memory from times past, the first half was a delight to gaze upon – though second balcony, way up, was possibly not the best place to see it from. The supporting visuals projected on the backdrop were largely invisible, and at times it was difficult to see which character was singing and what their part in the story was. I came to regret not listening to the album a couple of times over the past year, or during the trainride to Rotterdam.

During intermission, it’s raining dramatically outside. The many lights surrounding the modern Rotterdam architecture illuminate the big droplets of rain, creating an interesting contrast of light and shadow outside. Inside, intermission is spent cozy and convenient with some snacks and a drink, pre-ordered and pre-paid prior to the show. A concept worthy to be copied by others. It’s a delight not having to cope with queues during intermission, but truly enjoy it as a relaxing and refresing break.

Second half is the part in which all the mystery unravels. The music sounds as good performed live as it does on the album, and the story carries on up to the point where it becomes clear why and how the accident could occur, and why the wife and best friend kept visiting the hospital for three weeks straight. Everything unravels. The hospital scenes ends – and then there’s that twist. The same twist the album ends with, but on stage there’s an extra twisted twist. Twisted.

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AB1234

March 22nd, 2015

Kuranda. November 15th, 2012. The day after the eclipse.
Here, in Kuranda, as we wait for the cable car that’ll bring Dirk and me back down from this scenic mountain town I suddenly spot a face I recognize from photos. Glen Schneider is casually munching his ice cream, queueing for the cable car. As I hear him out on his plans to go to Sao Tome for the 2013 eclipse, the topic shifts to 2014. For the first time I hear about a renewed cooperation with Air Events and plans to organize a flight to intercept the 2014 eclipse. That vey instant I decide that’s the flight I will be on. The experience I had aboard flight QF2901 from Melbourne to Melbourne, intercepting the solar eclipse over Antarctica, combined with the positive stories heard about Air Events, and especially their 2008 eclipse flight, plus the simple fact Dusseldorf is so close to where I live that it’s safe consider it home turf. All things considered, it became a no brainer.

March 19th, 2015. The trip to Dusseldorf indeed proved an easy commute. Especially when taking into account in the last few years the eclipse brought me to all corners of the world. A convenient two hour drive brought Erica and me to the outskirts of Dusseldorf, where we had pre-booked a parking spot at Parkvogel’s garage. Upon arrival, the guy checking us in kindly asks our inbound flight number, so that he can arrange pickup at the airport. When I tell him our flight number, he responds in disbelief: “Es gibt kein Flug AB1234.”Luckily the printout of the pdf booklet provided by TravelQuest is within easy reach in the trunk. Not much later we were all set, and on our way by shuttlebus to the airport – from where a short walk is all it takes to enter the hotel and check in. Well before noon.

Since there’s time to kill and a city to explore, we ask the woman working the lobby how to get to the city center. It proves just as easy and convienient as the rest of the trip has been this far; the train station is located in the basement of the building housing the hotel. A handful of stops out, we exit the train and enter the epicenter of Dusseldorf. A vibrant and friendly city worthy of a stroll, just to admire the architecture. Though the area round the boulevard bordering the river Rhine prove a tourist trap, tough competition in these many bar streets does enable us to have a tasty and nutricious lunch on a budget.

On our way back to the railway station, suddenly Erica holds her pace and told me she feels the urge to visit a genuine German beer brewery.
Oddly enough, the Schumacher brewery turns out to be right round the corner. A small crowd of people in front of the building clearly indicates there’s something going on. As it turns out; three days per year, each third Thursday in March, September and November, this brewery sells and serves their rare Latzenbier, specially brewed for these occasions.

Despite the bustle, it proves remarkably easy to enter. At the gate, we’re provided with a wristband that grants access, and from there an alley leads to a square where music is played and lemonade glasses filled with dark beer are served, along with Currywusrt.

There’s something special about casually sipping beer in a crowdy courtyard, while, from the adjacent building, you see a plume of smoke rise from an old fashioned brick smokestack. It’s almost a pity that we can’t stay for long, but we do have a better place to go; this evening, the eve of the eclipse, there’ll be a mandatory briefing at the hotel we have to attend.

As we make our way toward the exit, it becomes obvious getting in with so much ease was a matter of pure luck or great timing. A line of people is now waiting to enter. We hand in our paper wristbands, allowing two thirsty people to enter the alley and join the fun we leave behind.

Back at the hotel, we receive our briefing, some paperwork and a wallet containing a nametag and commemorative pin. Aside from information on the things we will have to watch for during the flight, we also receive more information regarding the flight itself, and the way Isavia, Icelandic air travel control, will cater with the huge number of sightseeing flights in their airspace. Sadly, our flight was moved to a lower altitude and slightly different flight path than previously planned – underscoring they put lots of effort in keeping the skies safe, while enabling lots of people aboard a multitude of flights to have a great view of the eclipse. Though it does feel like a sacrifice that the duration of the eclipse will be shortened by these interventions, it’s soothing to know precautions are taken to ensure we’ll return to Dusseldorf safely.

Post briefing, there’s the opportunity to socially mingle over snacks and softdrinks. We’ve just been informed, though, that the checkin counter will only be open between 05:00 and 06:00 tomorrow morning, which is a good reason to not spend too much time out. To find some peace of mind, before going to sleep, we first walk through the airport to find where we need to go to, tomorrow, to check in. The counters mentioned during the briefing are remarkably close by and easy to find, not much more than a few steps from the sliding door where we enter the airport. Finding a quick bite that can double as dinner proves to be more challenging. All the outlets at the airport are closing down for the night. Luckily we can still eat at the hotel, so there’s no need to go to bed hungry.

Despite the intention to be in the dining room at 05:00 sharp, grab a quick bite and then check in, it proves difficult to rise this time of day. By the time we get to the dining room most people have already left. Though there’s still time, it does make me slightly nervous and less able to enjoy my breakfast and early morning coffee. As we walk to the airport, Kelly Beatty greats us at the door. Erica askes “Are we last?” Kelly confirms. “Yes, you are.” Though the counter will stay open for another half hour or so, everyone has already checked in. A great example of Punktlichkeit.
At the gate, we’re joined by some people booked on AB1000, the other eclipse flight out of Dusseldorf. Dan Fischer philosophically utters what’d happen with the ecipse chasing community if the roof over our heads would collapse. After yesterday’s briefing, hearing about the many flights that’ll have to share a relatively small patch of airspace, I try to refrain from fatalistic thoughts.

A cup of coffee and an hour or so later, the boarding call for our flight sounds. Minutes later, everyone’s on board and ready for departure. Well ahead of schedule. Even airborn things run smoothly. A PA announcement informs us that circumstances are favorable. It appears air traffic control has been prioritizing this flight, and even allowed us to climb to a higher than normal altitude. There’s hope we’ll be allowed to keep flyin this high, but, in Icelandic airspace, Isavia directs us to the lower altitude mentioned during yesterday’s briefing.
Over the Faroer, we are unable to spot any islands. All we see are clouds. Though I do wish the people on the ground all the best, to me, this underscores it was a wise decision to book a flight rather than a ground based tour.
The eclipse run starts, and excitement grows. People have been setting up tripods or improvised camera stands, and so have I. My setup consists of little more than two tiny cameras, one with eclipse filter and one without, fit to the window with little more than camera mounts with suction cups, and here and there some duct tape. Basic, straightforward and minimalistic. It is remarkable how cool the flight crew is about all this, because everyone everywhere is fitting all kinds of makeshift objects and devices to chairs, walls and armrests. In addition to clamps and suction cups, there’s duct tape everywhere. This plane, D-ABMV, is scheduled to make more flights later today. I feel sorry for the people who’ll have to ensure the walls and armrests don’t feel sticky.

It’s impossible to see the ocean from up here; all we see beneath us are clouds. This makes a beautiful backdrop for the slowly approaching lunar shadow, though. It is as if a dramatically hovering dark blot of ink creeps and crawls closer. I am surprised by how slow it appears the move. During ground based observations, this shadow just hits you like a wall of darkness, rolling in mercilessly. In preparation for the eclipse, the lights on board are dimmed. Even the lights that indicate it’s illegal to smoke get switched off. This surprises me, as they stayed on during the 2003 eclipse flight over Antarctica.
The eclipse itself is enjoyed the way it should be. Rather than wasting time peeking through a viewfinder, I simply let both cameras record without bothering what the outcome may or may not be, and as good as possible, we try to share the window and give each other the opportunity to gaze at this beautifully eclipsed sun. Whether totality lasts seconds or minutes, it always appears to consist of nothing but an instant. It’s so overwhelming it’s virtually impossible to keep track of time and place. Luckily, such things can be outsourced to machines – simply by timing the event afterward, based on video footage.

After totality, the plane makes a right turn – we’re heading back toward Germany. A number of people share their post-eclipse rituals with us. Short speeches are given, songs are sung, the eclipse flag paraded through the aisle. There’s a feeling of joy and relief. We’ve seen it. The flight crew provides all passengers with a small bottle of Champagne we eagerly uncork.

It is generally considered not done to wear, or even buy, a T-shirt commemorating an eclipse that didn’t happen yet. Concert-goers know that you are not supposed to wear a shirt of the band you’re about to see when going to a concert. The same unwritten rule applies to eclipse viewing. Some people will even claim it brings bad luck. Whether it’s actual superstition or just a tradition, I treat it with the respect it deserves by wearing the very same shirt I wore during the 2012 and 2013 eclipse as well; Micheal Zeiler’s shirt listing all eclipses from 2012-2045. My post-eclipse ritual involves marking my location on the map on the front of this shirt and ticking the corresponding box on the backside using a waterproof marker.

Both cameras are still recording. Eventually, they’ll run out of memory or power. The eclipse may be over, but they might still register some interesting visuals or announcements on the way back. After touchdown the improvised camera mount will be dismantled. First, it’s time to rest on our laurels and enjoy the peaceful afterglow.

Eventually, we return to Dusseldorf, where the plane taxies to a remote location. This allows us to take a group photo with the plane itself in the background. Another eclipse is history. My twelfth.

Back at the hotel the first thing people mention to us is that the power stayed on. I am pleased to hear that. Since I operate power plants for a living, I am well aware how delicate and tender the power grid is, and that balancing supply and demand is more than just a job. It’s an art. Especially in a country like Germany, where solar power provides more than half of the country’s demand for electricity on a sunny day, but significantly less once clouds roll in. The dimming effect the passing penumbra has on the inflow of solar power to the grid is comparable, but much stronger than a passing cloud here and there – it occurs throughout an entire continent in a relatively short period of time. Knowing how well today’s challenges were coped with does give me an ego boost, despite the fact I spent my day up in the air rather than in a control room.

In the lobby of the hotel, we get the opportunity to meet up with Michael Smith and his wife, who were aboard the Eclipse-Reisen flight AB1000. Over a Weizenbier their short trip through Germany, today’s and previous solar eclipses and life in general are discussed. Then, we head to the dining room where we dined yesterday and had breakfast this morning for the post-eclipse buffet.

March 21st, 2015. We return, yet again, to the same dining room. Much more at ease than yesterday. Coffee, and omelette and today’s newspaper. What a great way to start a new day.
Once done packing, we head to the counter to check out of the hotel and call the parking garage, informing them we’re ready to be picked up by their shuttle bus. We bid farewell to Kelly and Cheryl Beatty, and recommend them to drop by at microbrewery De Drie Ringen in Amersfoort on their way home. A name that proves hard to pronounce.
The same driver who brought us from the parking garage to the airport is also the one taking us back. Just as friendly and cheerful as she was two days ago. She mentions that the local circumstances in Dusseldorf have not been favorable to observe the partial – though she did manage to see a beautiful crescent through a thin haze of clouds, followed by a bright, blinding light though what eclipse chasers would refer to as a ‘lucky hole.’
Once back at the parking garage, we swt sail to our next destination. Brussels. For some reason my satnav fails to get a GPS fix, so I have to rely on intuition, carrier pigeon instinct, roadsigns and the part of the map I memorized – and, yes! This did bring us to the hotel in Vilvoorde we reserved for tonight. Conveniently located right next to the train station. Like in Dusseldorf, the heart of the city is only a few stops out. The city walk is rather brief. We stop at Beer Project Brussels; a new microbrewery launching their new IPA named Baby Lone. The most interesting thing about this beer is that the source material is old bread, sourced from a number of bakeries. There are platters on the table filled with sliced bread made from beer made from bread.
Toting around a 12-pack of their beers, we undertake a short city walk that includes Manneken Pis and a waffle.

March 22nd, 2015. After checkout, I drive Erica to Zaventem airport, from where she returns to the US. I decide to act like a tourist for the remainder of the day. Cruising around Brussels, stopping at the Lion of Waterloo and eventually spending some time at what apparently is the second best pub in the world; In De Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst. Only open on Sunday morning or by appointment. Known for serving the local specialty, known as Geuze. A kind of beer so sour it makes you cringe. In interesting place catering for interesting people. Here, I speak to musicians and thir kid. They mention their work used to bring them to The Netherlands frequently. The man even claims to have flanked Neerlands Hoop occasionally in the seventies.
Later, they make room for a really nice couple running an AirBnB nearby, taking their American tennant out for a casual drink before lunch. They know a lot about the Pajottenland and the valley of the Zenne river, where Geuze and Lambic thrive. My attention is drawn to a bus tour through the region, scheduled for May 3rd. Although it looks tempting, I decide it’s better to just report for work, that day, saving some money for next year’s trip to Indonesia.

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The effect of the March 20th eclipse on the European power supply

March 16th, 2015

Friday, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the Faroe Islands and Svalbard. Weather permitting, this will be an extraordinary and spectaculary miraculous sight well worth the trip north.

Throughout Europe, the moon will partially cover the sun. Whoever looks up to the sun at the right time, through proper filters, will see the sun’s apparent shape change from a disc into a
croissant. As this happens, the moon casts a shadow over Europe, dimming the light of the sun. Shadows become blurry and the color of the sky darkens toward a darker kind of blue, like an eerily awkward twilight.

Over the past couple of weeks, many news outlets covered the story that this event could cause the European power grid to become unstable. The Express even fotoshopped a gloomy image of a thick annular solar eclipse into a night shot of the Elizabeth Tower in a story they dramatically titled BLACKOUT warning: Biggest solar eclipse since 1999 could lead to power cuts across Europe. This article should be taken with more than just a single grain of salt, since it starts by falsely claiming “the UK is plummeted into darkness by a total eclipse of the sun” – which it is not. It won’t get darker than it does each and every evening. Also, the risks of power outages in the UK are negligible. The installed capacity of solar panels in the UK is too low to cause a major unbalance in the UK’s power supply. Same can de said about the imports and exports through the interconnectors to continental Europe. And since both Interconnexion France Angleterre and BritNed are direct current connections, disturbances in the grid frequency of the continantal European grid won’t drag the UK’s grid down with it.

Theoretically, though, these disturbances could occur in continental Europe this friday. In the enitire European power grid, all three phases oscillate on a beautiful, perfectly maintained frequency of 50 Hertz. This is the grid’s heartbeat, and the gentle humming you can hear in the vicinity of a high voltage transformer.
All power plants connected to this grid will carefully measure and respond to it and do their utmost to cancel out any disturbances. If the frequency drops below 50 Hz, it means more power is consumed than generated, so powerplants will fire up. If the frequency rises above this 50 Hz, it means that supply exceeds demand, so powerplants will produce less to, again, balance supply and demand.

An ever increasing part of the central European energy supply is generated using renewable resources. The greatest powerhouse in this, is Germany; both the Energiewende and the Atomausstieg greatly decreased the amount nuclear power yet boosted the amount of solar and wind power in the energy mix – with trusted coal and lignite powered plants to provide grid stability by maintaining the 50 Hz grid frequency. Machines that were once engineered to continuously run baseload are retrofitted to run part load, from where they can fire up or down, whenever needed. On days with changable weather, balancing is a very dynamic process, since changes in wind velocity or cloud cover immediately and drastically affect the inflow of renewable energy.
That is what is bound to happen during friday’s solar eclipse, too. In the time the lunar shadow sweeps across Europe, the input of all solar panels will decrease. Just as they would at dusk. Then, though, once the Earth comes out of the lunar shadow again, the amount of solar energy produced will increase at an incredibly steep ramp. This effect does not compare to what happens every morning when the sun rises, since the sun had already risen – and is close to noon. When the production of solar energy peaks. It is this ramp that makes the tabloids speculate it could cause a cascade effect, leading up to a total blackout like the one the northeast of the USA experienced little over a decade ago. After all, the fossil fueled powerplants hooked to the grid will have to compensate for all the excess electricity suddenly produced by décreasing their own production. In a controlled fashion, of course. After all, the beautiful 50 Hz grid frequency has to be maintained at all cost, and if it fluctuates too much, or rises or drops too steep, it could cause a load rejection of either a powerplant, an interconnector between countries, or a solar inverter or all of the above.

Fortunately, the utility providers are well aware of all this and have taken appropriate measures to cope with it. This keeps everyone happy; the tabloids can publish their scaremongering horror stories, while the rest keeps enjoying continuous supply of electricity – and the most fortunate ones will a hauntingly beautiful solar eclipse.

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Blackout

March 15th, 2015

Aanstaande vrijdag is het zover; dan schuift de maan voorzichtig voor de zon, en is er in Europa een zonsverduistering zichtbaar. Bij onbewolkte hemel is het een prachtig gezicht om, goed voorbereid, te kijken wat er gebeurt terwijl meer dan 80% van het zonoppervlak zich verschuilt achter de maan. Het is nog veel mooier ergens te gaan kijken waar de zon voor 100% achter de maan verdwijnt, maar wie dat wil zien zal op moeten staat uit z’n luie stoel. De zonsverduistering van aanstaande vrijdag is alleen volledig op een paar eilandjes in de buurt van de poolcirkel. Ten overvloede; daar is het koud. Zo koud dat de lokale auoriteiten er waarschuwen goed op te passen voor ijsberen.

Tegelijkertijd is er wat paniek. Vooral de Engelse tabloids hebben pagina’s volgekalkt met bangmakende artikelen over het desastreuze effekt dat deze zonsverduistering zal hebben op de elektriciteitsvoorziening in Europa. Niet alleen de de zon, maar ook alle lampen zullen zwart licht gaan geven, als je deze tabloids mag geloven.

Wat is er aan de hand? Een steeds groeiend deel van de Europese elekticiteit wordt opgewekt met zonnepanelen. Die gaan elke ochtend braaf leveren aan het net, en stoppen daar na zonsondergang weer mee. Het moge duidelijk zijn dat zonnepanelen minder vermogen leveren als de zon minder hard schijnt; bij bewolkt weer, regen, maar dus ook bij een zonsverduistering. Dat geeft niet, want er zijn meer dan genoeg conventionele elektriciteitscentrales beschikbaar om een tekort of een overschot weg te kunnen regelen. Hierdoor kun je ook bij windstil weer en na zonsondergang nog gewoon de wasmachine of de TV aanzetten, en valt in de zomer de airco niet meteen uit als er een regenbuitje overtrekt. Bovendien gebeurt het eigenlijk nooit dat het overal tegelijk regent, dus wat je hier te weinig hebt, kun je wel ergens anders vandaan halen.

Doordat alle elektriciteisnetwerken van continentaal Europa met elkaar verbonden zijn, krijg je echt een oersterk net. In plaats van kleine vijvertjes waarin elk plonsje een golfbeweging veroorzaakt die tijdenlang naijlt, vormen alle netwerken samen een grote zee, waarin diezelfde golf snel uitdempt. Als het hard waait in Denemarken, en er daardoor veel meer windenergie wordt geproduceerd dan het hele land verbruikt, regelen elektriciteitscentrales in heel Europa terug, zodat vraag en aanbod weer met elkaar in balans zijn. Op diezelfde manier wordt ook het effekt van een zonnige of juist regenachtige dag weggeregeld.

Het vervelende waar we aanstaande vrijdag mee te maken krijgen, echter, is het volgende; meer dan de helft van alle in Europa opgestelde zonnepanelen staan in Duitsland en Italië. De penumbra passeert deze landen ongeveer tegelijkertijd. Voor het mensenoog is dit amper waarneembaar, maar voor zonnepanelen wel. Meer dan de helf van alle zonnepanelen in heel Europa gaan dus bijna gelijktijdig minder leveren. De ENTSO-E heeft een heel lezenswaardig rapport geschreven over dit onderwerp, en volgens hun berekeningen zal in de tijd dat de schaduw van de maan over Europa trekt, de produktie van zonneenergie dalen met 400 megawatt per minuut – en dat een half uur lang! Zoals altijd wordt deze daling opgevangen met centrales die op fossiele brandstoffen worden gestookt. Dat is dagelijkse kost voor de elektriciteitsproducenten, maar het tempo waarin het deze keer gebeurt is dat niet. Er zijn tientallen, zoniet honderden, elektriciteitscentrales nodig die in dat halve uur van deellast naar vollast op moeten regelen – en ze zullen allemaal flink gas moeten geven om het tempo bij te kunnen houden. Daarna, echter, volgt de volgende uitdaging; de zon komt weer achter de maan vandaan, en terwijl de schaduw van de maan verdwijnt, gaan de Europese zonnepanelen weer leveren, in een tempo waar je haast duizelig van wordt. Volgens het hiervoor genoemde rapport van de gezamenlijke Europese netbeheerders gaat het om 700 megawatt per minuut. Allemaal vermogen dat zonet met veel pijn en moeite bijgeschakeld is, moet nu weer weg. Al die centrales die zonet volop gas hebben moeten geven, moeten nu vól op de rem gaan staan om te zorgen dat vraag en aanbod met elkaar in balans blijven. Gaat dit te snel of te langzaam, dan heeft dat gevolgen voor de lichtnetfrequentie in Europa. Deze moet ten koste van alles 50 Hz blijven, maar zal stijgen als er meer elektriciteit wordt opgewekt dan dat er wordt verbruikt, of dalen als er juist te veel wordt verbruikt en te weinig geproduceerd. Iedereen die wel eens een klein generatortje op benzine heeft gebruikt, en daar ineens een koffiezetapparaat op aansluit die kent dat. Gebeurt dit te heftig, dan zou een elektriciteitscentrale uit kunnen vallen. Zonnepanelen doen hetzelfde; zodra de omvormers een verstoring in de lichtnetfrequentie waarnemen, ontkoppelen ze van het elektriciteitsnet. Dat hoort zo; er is altijd iets bijzonders aan de hand als de lichtnetfrequentie níét precies 50 hertz is, en door uit te schakelen wordt vervolgschade voorkomen.
Dit kán echter ook een kettingreaktie veroorzaken of versterken, zoals in 2003 gebeurde in het noordoosten van de Verenigde Staten. Gelukkig zijn de Europese elektriciteitsproducenten goed voorbereid op wat er vrijdag gaat gebeuren. Ik weet zeker dat mijn koelkast het vrijdag gewoon blijft doen.

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