Garden center chain Intratuin opened an "all-electric" distribution center in Aalsmeer in 2022. The center meets all sustainability requirements. Unfortunately, a problem presented itself: the capacity of the grid proved insufficient for the application of all electricity. Director Peter Paul Kleinbussink and building owner Charles Markman found a solution to this problem in the GreenBattery. This mobile battery from energy company Vattenfall is a sustainable alternative to a diesel generator.
Intratuin's new distribution center is in Aalsmeer. It is a logistics hub where all branches of the garden center order flowers and plants, says director Peter Paul Kleinbussink. "Everything in the field of greenery is centered here." The new center has enabled Intratuin to modernize and make it more sustainable. "A big advantage of new construction is that it could be delivered entirely according to our wishes. For example, it meets all sustainability requirements: good insulation, solar panels, LED lighting, energy-efficient equipment, we will soon have eight charging stations, and so on."
Problem: not enough energy
Still, Kleinbussink ran into a significant problem in the fall of 2022: the newly opened center needed more energy capacity, but the grid operator could not meet it because of . "At an early stage we had made a so-called 'more request' to the regional grid operator for our old contract, but to our regret the grid operator did not come through. As a result, we could not, for example, heat our plants all at 16.5 degrees. It would take another year and a half before the grid congestion could be resolved. A deception. So yes, against my principles, for the first few weeks we had to solve it with a diesel generator to get enough electricity."
The message was also uncomfortable for property owner Charles Markman. "I feel a great responsibility to Intratuin, especially since it's a new project. When you move into such a beautiful distribution center, it has to be good. But once we installed a diesel generator, the energy crisis came. Diesel prices were skyrocketing, so that threw everything off."
Placement of GreenBattery
Kleinbussink and Markman went into the winter without the grid operator to provide enough power at Intratuin. And because the entire area had been completed gasless, gas was no longer an option either. Markman: "That's when I got the tip to look at a battery solution. Together with Intratuin, I came into contact with a relationship manager from Vattenfall. That company was able to supply a green battery through its partner GreenBattery within two weeks." Intratuin rents the battery from Vattenfall for the period the company needs it.
The result: the entire electrical installation of the 12,500-square-meter building had to be converted. "We got new cables to put the battery 'in between'," says Kleinbussink. "Insurance-wise, it also brought new challenges. But in the end we managed to get the new battery to do its job within two weeks."
A quick solution, then, that pushed the initial, winter problems into the background. And which also turned out to be cheaper. It did require a lot of coordination, Markman says. "All winter I had daily consultations with Intratuin and the people from GreenBattery and Vattenfall. In the end, we were also able to set the temperature down a bit. So we were able to stay under the contracted capacity." That was a nice touch, because the grid connection could not be weighted down due to technical problems. "We came out of it with pragmatic thinking." With spring approaching, the green battery fortunately became redundant again, says Kleinbussink: "It was nice that we could solve it with a rental construction. Should the need arise, we will install another temporary battery next winter. But ultimately we hope for a suitable solution for the long term: that we can get the energy capacity we need supplied and make full use of our solar panels (1 megawatt of capacity, mainly for our own use, ed.)."
Future: sustainability drive
According to the director, Intratuin is in the process of taking a major sustainability step anyway. "With new construction, it's easy, unless you are faced with surprises. But we have also, for example, taken our service office in Woerden from energy label C to A. That's a 25-year-old building. There we invested in solar panels, LED lighting and energy-efficient equipment." Kleinbussink also mentions the massive switch to heat pumps at Intratuin branches. What he is most proud of? "Our vision of the green garden. We are trying to encourage consumers to massively green their gardens, put more effort into biodiversity. People need to rediscover the pleasure of gardening. In doing so, you also help nature, instead of turning on the barbecue in a completely paved garden. We are also adapting our assortment accordingly: more plants, much more greenery. No more chemical pesticides. All our fertilizers are organic, the potting soil is sustainable, and so on. We're really taking a big step in that."
Tips for entrepreneurs
Markman also supports the transition to sustainable use, both business and personal. Still, he sometimes sees practical concerns. "Sustainability is moving so fast that sometimes suppliers cannot cope. Think of delivery times for solar panels or heat pumps. Of course, we would all like to get rid of the gas, but it is not always feasible. So make sure you know in advance where you stand." Kleinbussink agrees. "Always get yourself well informed. That we didn't get enough electrical capacity was force majeure. But we continue to make every effort: we keep ourselves well informed about developments in the energy transition and possible practical solutions. In the end, that also helped us out with the GreenBattery."