Around 75 students from the Hanzehogeschool in Groningen took a research trip to the island to find sustainable solutions for the future
Translated by Thomas Ansell
Watermills in the sea, huge kites, and a real ‘pumpkin bicycle’. These are just three ideas presented by the group of students, after a week of brainstorming about a more sustainable Schiermonnikoog. The island is the Western-most of the West Frisian Islands, and is officially part of the Province of Friesland, with the Frisian name ‘Skiermûntseach’.
The master’s students, who are from all points of the compass, spoke with civil servants, farmers, and island visitors. From these discussions, a list of thirteen ideas were developed. Klass Jan Noorman, Reader in Energy Transition at the Hanzehogeschool, said of the successful first trip: “there were plenty of good ideas coming from the groups. The suggestions were hugely diverse.”
One of the plans, for example, was to build man-mad islands for the storage of hydrogen to retain energy. Another, a composting system, so that peel and other food waste is retained for use on the island. So that islanders can get around, one proposal was the ‘pumpkin bike’. A volunteer would cycle around on the bike, and whoever donates organic waste is rewarded… with a pumpkin.
One stipulation was that all solutions had to be realistic. So, no expensive warming pumps for the De Monnik bungalow park: in place of that idea the students laid out a plan for tiny windmills.
Lots of plans fit in the with unique character of the island, says Noorman. He gave the example of ‘kite power’, a way to produce energy through the use of kilometre-high kites. ‘Windmills tend to evoke resistance. However this idea retains the atmosphere of the island.’
Unfortunately, the technology is not quite fully developed, said the Reader: ‘but the time is ripe for a prototype on Schiermonnikoog.’ It’s the same story with ‘tidal power’, which would involve putting small turbines under the sea. These are then turned by the ebb and flow of the tide. Certainly, this idea would be very useful in the estuaries around the island, where the tide is strongest.
But what about the cost to the fishing trade? There are also solutions to that, thinks Noorman: ‘there are systems where fish are kept away using sound-waves.’ A series of hopeful ideas yes, but many of them still require research and new technological advancements. First, the students must put down their ideas into essays, which will then be gathered together and presented to the Gemeente in the form of an idea book.
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