SCCALE 20 30 50 partners met in Leuven at the end of April for a consortium meeting. The meeting was the perfect occasion to discover one of the first experiments of the local community with renewable energy: the Dijlemolens complex!
Dirk Vansintjan (RESCoop.eu) and Stijn De Jonge (KU Leuven) lead a big group of visitors from all over Europe, focused on the complex’s past and its future.
An industrial mill until 1979, it was refurbished to host apartments in 1985. Already at that time, the local community was concerned with sustainability and renewables, and wanted to experiment innovative energy systems within the building. They installed solar boilers, a water turbine, and a heat pump. The system did not function properly due to technical issues so in the end a gas boiler was deemed a more cost-effective solution. Nonetheless, the citizens group did not give up, trying to find greener alternatives to power the building in the decades that followed. Thanks to the experience, they learned enough to successfully start other local renewables projects in the city and in the region.
Today, the building is privately owned, but still used by the municipality as a testbed for renewable solutions: a new heating system will use the river as an energy source, creating an open aqua thermal system with a heat exchanger and a new heat pump – the old one will go to a local museum! The system will be completed with the installation of solar PV panels, to reduce the residents’ electricity bills.