Tulips, windmills and… solar panels?

Tulips, windmills and… solar panels?

The FINANCIAL -- The Netherlands may be known for tulips and windmills, but if Michiel Mensink has his way, his start-up Exasun will make the country known for its solar panels.

According to ING, since Michiel and Jan Jaap van Os founded Exasun in 2012, they’ve developed solar panels that are at least twice as durable as traditional solar panels, generate more energy for less money, and that look better. And they’re made locally right here in The Hague.

Now Exasun will be able to step up its production five-fold thanks to a multi-million-euro investment from ING Sustainable Investments and ENERGIIQ, a government energy innovation fund, supplemented by a loan from ABN AMRO.

A perfect fit

ING launched Sustainable Investments early this year with €100 million of capital for sustainable ‘scale-ups’ that have a proven concept and make a positive environmental impact. Exasun, its first investment, is a perfect fit.

“We’re very enthusiastic,” said Mark Weustink, head of ING Sustainable Investments. “Exasun offers an aesthetically and economically attractive solution to putting homes and buildings in the Netherlands and Europe on more sustainable footing.”

The investment fits perfectly with ING’s sustainability strategy of contributing to a low-carbon society. ING’s own research shows that the biggest reduction in Dutch CO2 emissions must come from the power sector, which will increasingly depend on wind and solar energy. About 61% of energy in the Netherlands will come from wind and sun by 2030, according to ING estimates released this month, compared with 7% in 2016.

Panels, tiles and roofs

Besides solar panels, Exasun makes solar roof tiles. These come in black and orange-red and can be installed between existing roof tiles, which is a quintessential characteristic of Dutch homes. Another product is an entire solar-panel roof, used in newly built homes. These are both more efficient and nicer-looking alternatives for traditional solar panels.

It took four to five years of research and development to get this head start, said Michiel. Now, Exasun will use the investment to introduce a fully automated production line later this year, with a five-fold increase in production capacity. Capacity will be scaled up further in 2019.