Owner Fons Burger has built a sustainable power plant with PVT panels on the gigantic flat roof of the former NRC building in Rotterdam. With this, Burger provides his tenants not only with cleaner energy, but also with low energy bills. “A win-win situation,” says Burger, who hopes many will follow his example.
“Rotterdam is bursting with flat roofs. If they fill them with these panels, it would make a huge difference.”
The NRC building
The NRC building on Witte de Withstraat is an important part of Rotterdam’s history. The building dates from 1874 and has hosted the NRC newspaper for 100 years. The former printing office of the NRC Handelsblad on Rotterdam’s Witte de Withstraat now houses restaurants, art institutions and venues. Including that of the Scapino Ballet.
Own sustainable power plant
Thirty years ago, Fons Burger bought the building. Fons is a former journalist, Rotown and Nighttown founder. Today, he is an activist entrepreneur. After covering the property’s large roof with sedum, he wanted to make it completely sustainable. At the time, the building was heated with district heating, but Burger was against it because of the use of heat from waste incineration. “If that is residual heat, that’s fine. But heat from waste incineration is also used. We are against that.”
So he started looking for a sustainable and independent way to generate heat. They considered solar panels and a ground source heat pump, but this turned out to be too complicated and expensive. Moreover, drilling a geothermal probe would limit his neighbours’ ability to do the same. The next idea was to put up an air pump. “But those need a lot of power to keep going, plus you have huge cabinets on your roof,” he says. After further research, they ended up with a new technology: PVT panels. And that turned out to be the ideal solution. “If we can, we just go for the latest of the latest. The heat pumps are now also in the basement. That again saves space on the roof and, besides, you don’t have outdoor units with noise pollution.”
Now, since February 2021, the NRC building has had an installation with 320 PVT panels from Triple Solar combined with four Nibe heat pumps of 60 kW each. This heats 7000 square metres of surface area.