This project has helped to make the dairy farm self-sufficient in terms of power consumption. Its Vanadium Redox Flow Battery (VRB) stores the power flowing from the solar collectors. Later, this energy can be delivered to robotic milking machines and other powered devices on the farm (such as stall lighting, cleaning machines, etc.). The Cellcube FB10/100 battery is manufactured by Cellstrom (an Austrian subsidiary of Gildemeister).

"The redox-flow battery is connected to an intelligent control system that diverts solar power to the place where it can be of the most benefit. It can either be delivered directly to the dairy farm, to the battery, or to the national power grid. For instance, if sunny weather is forecast for tomorrow, the system will respond by ensuring that, before then, the battery is discharged to the best economic effect” says Jan Borgman

battery photon farmer


The roofs of the cubicle cow-shed and the old tie-stall barn currently accommodate 360 square meters of solar panels. In a climate like that of the Netherlands, Jan and Erna can expect these panels to generate an annual total of around 42,000 kWh of electricity. Robotic milking machines on a dairy farm with a herd of 100 cows will consume a total of 50,000 to 60,000 kWh per year.


sunroof1 with SDE subsidy  

Jan and Erna can continuously monitor energy production and battery status (in terms of temperature level, percentage of “full charge”, and the exchange of energy with the national power grid). Peaks in demand (e.g. when a robotic milking machine starts up) are immediately visible.

Technology is everywhere. They are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities

For example, a new solar water heater system was recently installed on the roof. The farm also makes use of the hot water that is generated by the milk cooling process. Preparations for the installation of energy-efficient LED lighting in the cow-shed at 't Spieker are in full swing. There are also tentative plans for the installation of a small fuel cell, in cooperation with Alliander. Alliander and Flinth are currently exploring their options, in terms of collaborating on the further development of this system. On balance, these measures should be sufficient to make ’t Spieker entirely self-sufficient. That will definitely pay off.

sunboiler storage technology

The scenario: filling up with charged electrolyte fuel at Photon Farms. The vanadium solution in the battery can be pumped from one place to another, so it could be used in mobile systems such as commercial vehicles or even cars. However, it will probably be some time before this can be implemented. The VRB system is still very expensive, and the vanadium solution has a relatively low energy density.

Jan Borgman notes that “Given current energy prices, the commercial benefits are rather limited. Moreover, the battery itself is the size of a shipping container. That’s much too big to fit in a car, or even a house. However, the system could prove useful as a backup or in the event of a power cut. If the price of electricity eventually starts to climb again, then we could all stand to benefit from the battery.”

Further details about the Photon Farmer project can be found in the InnovationNetwork’s informative concept leaflet.