“If I only grew potatoes and onions, then I wouldn’t speak with so many people,” says Jaap van der Beek. “You speak so often to these people because we all have the same interest. That interest is to build a big wind turbine.”
Jaap van der Beek has been harvesting the wind for over 15 years and his 850kw turbine powers hundreds of homes. He lives in North Holland; an area that centuries ago was dominated by wooden windmills. A pilot, farmer and a wind enthusiast, Jaap is a busy man.
He speaks passionately about the impact that wind energy has had on his life. “I really like the idea of getting energy from the wind,” says Jaap. “I really like the technology and I especially like the idea that it sits on my own property.” But perhaps first and foremost, even above the financial gain, is the sense of community gained from involvement with wind energy. Owning a wind turbine has connected him with the other solitary wind turbine owners in North Holland and with the industry as a whole.
Since installing his first windmill years ago, he has helped many others navigate the planning permits and regulations to install windmills or plan even bigger windmills. He is the assistant director of the Vereniging van Windturbine Eigenaren in Noord-Holland (Association of Wind Turbine owners in North Holland) and sits on the implementation board for the Netherlands Wind Energy Association.
These committees take a fair amount of time, but he doesn’t complain. He spends hours writing emails, attending meetings, writing reports and general committee work because he wishes to promote and grow the wind energy sector in the Netherlands.
As for himself, Jaap wants to keep building, “I am also a business person, I want to go forward; bigger, better. Standing still is to go backwards.” For the last four years he has been working with 35 other wind turbine owners to plan a large wind park on a polder in Holland. This co-operation will easily satisfy the Dutch law prescribing that windmills must be built together in a line. They are currently working on land planning and permissions and expect that there will be another 4 years before the project gets the green light.
When it does, Jaap hopes to install a 3.5 MW turbine, 4 times more powerful then the older one that currently sits next to his house. He knows that working together has been a great exercise to get to know his neighbours and build a community spirit as everyone moves towards a common goal. In the meantime, Jaap will continue to farm his tulips, fly his planes and raise his family in the shadow of his windmill.
This blog post is part 9 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden Next week meet Dr. Roy, an early adopter of wind energy in Thailand and developer of low speed wind turbines.