In October 2011, Aruba became the second foreign country to host one of The Netherlands’ most innovative, creative and intelligent enterprises: TNO. In Aruba, TNO is helping to set up an environmentally sustainability energy matrix
An independent and non-profit company, TNO is the third largest applied science organization in Europe, covering fields of industrial innovation, defense and security, energy, healthy living, transportation and mobility, ICT, and urban planning.
The Dutch company chose Aruba for various reasons, among them its perfect climate for sustainable energy (namely, wind, sun and seawater for cooling). TNO also views the island as a springboard for the rest of the Caribbean
region and Latin America. Together, the Aruban government and TNO have begun working towards a vision of making Aruba ‘green’.
“We think you can use this island as a model in terms of how the world could be in the future,” says Jan Ebbing, head of Caribbean Branch Office TNO. “We want to make it completely sustainable, so the people from this area can look at the neighborhood where we do our experiments on a smaller scale, and see how biogas and wind, solar and wave energies, etc. can create the ideal mix of energy without using fossil fuels for energy.”
Aruba’s extreme weather conditions call for equipment – such as turbines and solar panels – resistant to wind, sun and salt spray. Mr. Ebbing says that these parts often malfunction in Aruba, and that is where TNO comes in. “We are very well-equipped to make applications so they can work well in this environment.“
The next step is for industries to come to Aruba, bringing their equipment. “Then they can sell it in this environment with a certificate from the states and Europe. They can prove here that their windmills are working here. We are using [Aruba] as a hub for Latin America to Europe and vice versa,” explains Mr. Ebbing.
For TNO, sustainability is paramount. One part of sustainability is raising awareness of the importance of reducing energy spending. TNO is in talks with several U.S. and Dutch universities to set up a special green faculty in Aruba, where students and professionals can do a 2+2 program to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Studies.
Another key part is employing locals so that they acquire the knowledge and skills to carry on the business independently. “We want to work with local people from the region; you are not going to fly in a dozen expats and get them to live here for a few years and then go back, because that is not sustainable,” says Mr. Ebbing.
Aruba’s energy matrix is already well on its way to being ‘green’, with more than 20% of its energy coming from renewable sources.