In October 2011, Aruba be-came a second home to one of The Netherlands’s most inno-vative, creative and intelligent enterprises: TNO. An inde-pendent and non-profit com-pany, TNO is the third largest applied science organization in Europe, covering fields of in-dustrial innovation, defense and security, energy, healthy living, transportation and mo-bility, ICT, and urban planning.
The Dutch company chose Aruba for various reasons, among them its perfect climate for sustainable energy (name-ly, wind, sun and seawater for cooling). TNO also views the island as a springboard for the rest of the Caribbean region and Latin America. To-gether, 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 small-er scale, and see how wind, so-lar, and wave energy, and biogas, etc. can create the ide-al 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 mal-function 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 indus-tries to come to Aruba, bring-ing their equipment. “Then they can sell it in this environ-ment with a certificate from the states and Europe. They can prove here that their wind-mills 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 sus-tainability 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 profes-sionals can do a 2+2 program to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Studies.
Another key part is employ-ing 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 ex-pats 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 be-ing ‘green’, with more than 20% of it s energ y coming from renewable sources. Mr. Ebbing believes that by 2020 up to 90% could be renew-able, as long as Aruban com-p anie s , universitie s and government adhere to plan.