Battery-powered electric drill should prevent nitrogen delay Yesterday, 9:17 PM in the Netherlands To resolve the impasse surrounding nitrogen, the construction sector is focusing on electrification of construction equipment. Today an experiment was carried out in Breda with an electric drill that runs entirely on batteries.

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Electric drill
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Because construction is no longer exempt from the nitrogen approach, thousands of construction projects are being delayed. To overcome this impasse, the construction sector is focusing on electrification of construction equipment. Today, experiments were carried out during the construction of high-voltage cables in Breda with a 235-ton electric drill that runs entirely on batteries.

Electric drills are often used in construction projects, but they are powered by diesel generators. National grid operator Tennet and the contractor say they have found a “unique solution” to install electricity cables underground without emissions – also known as ’emission-free’.

Still diesel trucks

A spokesperson for the grid operator explains that by using the battery-powered electric drill, 60 percent less nitrogen is emitted during the entire construction project. “As a result, we do not have to go through the hoops for the nitrogen permit, which saves one to two years of delay.”

Emissions at the project in Breda are not completely reduced, because the trucks that transport the drill, batteries and other construction equipment still run on diesel. For example, the batteries have to be charged in a hall, which in turn runs on solar energy.

Ralph Frins, associate professor of environmental law at Tilburg University, is more skeptical about the electric drill test than Tennet itself. “You have to include everything in your nitrogen calculations during a construction project, including the trucks that drive back and forth with building materials and batteries. Especially if you are near a Natura 2000 area, nitrogen deposition quickly occurs.”

A separate nature permit is only required if there are “potentially significant consequences”, says Frins. “If you are lucky, for example if it concerns a limited, temporary nitrogen deposition, a so-called preliminary test will suffice and no nature permit is required.”

In any case, a spokesperson for Netbeheer Nederland calls it a promising trial. “Normally, this type of project involves working with diesel drills, which are very polluting and noisy. Construction projects normally release a lot of nitrogen, so you can reduce this considerably. This is simply the future.”

Bouwend Nederland is also following the project with interest. “If you can demonstrate that a construction project does not lead to a deterioration of nature in the area, you do not have to apply for a nitrogen permit. I can imagine that is the case with that electric drill,” says a spokesperson.

Electrification not yet everywhere in construction

The spokesperson for Bouwend Nederland states that the construction sector is responsible for a small part of nitrogen emissions, but is hit hard by the restrictions. He calls the recent ruling by the Council of State about the project in which CO2 is stored in the North Sea via pipelines under the port of Rotterdam a bright spot. The Council of State recognizes that there are harmful nitrogen emissions, but they are temporary and limited and have no major consequences for nature reserves.

According to the trade association, the construction sector is busy electrifying, but is encountering a number of issues. “You do need a socket. Unfortunately, that is not always possible with the full electricity grid.”

According to Bouwend Nederland, there are entrepreneurs who have already replaced half of their equipment with electrical machines, but also contractors who are still reluctant. If electric is chosen, it often involves light equipment.

Major investments

According to Frins, electrification in the construction sector is not yet happening very quickly. “Certainly with large equipment, it obviously involves a lot of money.” For example, electric excavators and drills cost a lot more than regular machines, according to an inventory by trade association Cumela. Frins: “Entrepreneurs always consider the return on investment. If it is too expensive to electrify, I can imagine that they will abandon it.”

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