Vandersanden

New wind power plant covers own demand and supplies the neighbourhood at the same time

Vandersanden, Europe's largest family-owned brick manufacturer, is putting its own wind turbine into operation for the first time at its Lanklaar site in Belgium. With an annual output of around 10,000 MWh, the plant not only generates enough electricity for its own needs, but also supplies neighbouring households with environmentally friendly energy.


„For Vandersanden, the construction of its first own wind turbine represents an important milestone on the way to making brick production as sustainable as possible. At Vandersanden, we don‘t think in years, but in generations,“ explains Raf Jansen, COO of the company. „With our new wind turbine, we are making an active contribution to building a sustainable energy supply.“ Based on a comprehensive sustainability strategy, Vandersanden has been successively equipping the roofs of its own factory buildings with solar cells for several years and also uses combined heat and power to generate heat and electricity.

Capacity to meet the electricity needs of 2,000 households

With a peak height of 200 metres, the new wind turbine is designed to generate about 10,000 MWh of electricity annually, which is equivalent to the demand of about 2,000 households. Vandersanden needs a good half of the generated energy to operate its own systems and equipment, while the remaining green electricity is fed into the public grid. „With our concept of collective well-being, we not only want to make our own production process and our industry as a whole more environmentally friendly, but also do something good for the community,“ says Vandersanden COO Raf Jansen.

Construction of the new wind turbine in Lanklaar began in November 2021 with the erection of the foundation. After delivery of the mast sections and rotor blades in April, assembly was then completed in early May. In addition to the electrical work inside the turbine, which is still ongoing at the moment, the grid connection is also being prepared at the same time. When selecting a suitable system, Vandersanden placed great emphasis on minimising the noise pollution for the surrounding area. Special attention was also paid to the shadows cast by the rotor blades: when the sun is shining, the rotor blades create cast shadows that also move in unison with each rotation. To ensure that this effect does not cause excessive annoyance to local residents, the effects of shadow casting on the facades of neighbouring buildings are continuously measured and automatically limited to a maximum of 30 minutes per day or eight hours per year.

Good cooperation between all stakeholders

During the planning for the construction of the new wind turbine, Vandersanden closely involved the neighbourhood of the Lanklaar plant from the very beginning. „We have taken the time to prepare the project as well as possible and to ensure that residents are inconvenienced as little as possible, both during construction and in future operations,“ says Raf Jansen. „Six months after commissioning, we will also take control measurements and determine whether additional measures are needed to protect against noise or vibrations.“ Furthermore, Jansen notes, „We are proud and happy that we have also been supported by the responsible municipality and the administration of the province of Limburg in putting this important step in realising our sustainability ambitions into practice.“

Vandersanden commissioned the consulting company Encon from Bilzen with the project management for the realisation of the wind turbine. Encon specialises in the transformation of business processes with a view to greater sustainability, and company founder Robin Bruninx is pleased about the brick manufacturer‘s commitment: „All companies must strive to generate the energy necessary for operations as locally as possible. Vandersanden is a role model in this respect by giving high priority to its own energy transition and supply from renewable sources. If this approach can be transferred to other companies on a large scale, we will be taking an important step towards tackling the current climate problems.“

In addition to self-supply and feeding surplus energy into the municipal power grid, the new wind turbine in Lanklaar will also serve the future operation of the Vandersanden pilot project „Carbstone“. This is the development of an innovative production process for facing bricks that can also serve as CO2 storage. With Carbstone, Vandersanden wants to set another milestone on the way to more sustainability in brick production.

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