04 Feb Dirk van Lennep: Nature’s Biggest Fan
Dirk van Lennep has always been passionate about saving the planet.
The natural world is foremost in his mind, whether roaming the wilderness of Zimbabwe or creating a 3.5-acre forest sanctuary at his Lincolnshire home.
He left his Rhodesian home aged three to settle in the UK with his parents. Yet he’s never forgotten the joy of “running and playing free” in the African bush, discovering the profusion of native plants and animals for himself.
These earliest experiences laid the foundation for a life lived and enjoyed in the ‘great outdoors’. Dirk followed his dreams – swimming competitively at school, managing farms in South Africa and setting up his own UK-based landscape design and construction business.
But then he discovered renewable energy. It changed everything. This enterprising African was no longer restricted to managing or ‘designing’ nature. Truly clean energy could actually help sustain and conserve it – not just for one community or place but for everyone who shares this incredible planet.
For Dirk, this became the biggest dream of all. Could the right technology create a constant source of zero-emissions electricity cheaply and sustainably, pretty much anywhere in the world?
A quest for the ultimate renewable technology
Dirk is an optimistic man, grounded in scientific training and armed with the tools for practical land management.
If the ultimate renewable tech was out there, he was going to find it. And so his quest began.
In 2006 he decided to heat his home with solar panels and air source heat pumps, chosen from the emerging generation of renewable products. Then he began visiting trade shows and researching clean energy offerings already on the market.
It proved a major source of frustration. How were people and businesses ‘cut off’ from the wealth of sustainable technologies springing up around them? Why were so few of these amazing innovations accessible to people and businesses in their everyday lives?
Dirk wanted to match companies with proven technologies to boost both business and sustainability. So, he embarked on a career embracing everything from ground and air source heat pumps to Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) generators, LED lighting, solar thermal, solar PV and battery storage.
He believed then, and believes now, that we still have time – just – to eliminate carbon-emitting fossil fuels and reduce global warming before the earth reaches a catastrophic tipping point.
Business consultancy – the sustainable way
In 2007 Dirk became regional manager for UK company Better Planet Ltd, signing renewable energy contracts with architects, property developers and domestic customers.
A range of business development and energy consultancy roles followed with energy companies in the UK. Dirk began giving seminars and presentations to stakeholders as well as developing high-level contacts with clients interested in energy performance contracts.
Armed with valuable expertise in this burgeoning field, Dirk set up his own energy consultancy, helping quality companies bring the best sustainable and energy-saving products to market from 2013-18.
Then, in October 2018, he introduced a client – Greenstorc CEO Paul Flynn – to large-scale, high-efficiency heat pump technology in Denmark. Both men realised they were pursuing the same goal. Dirk promptly joined the growing Greenstorc team as a dedicated consultant.
“I was totally bowled over by Greenstorc technology because it ticked every commercial, renewable energy and social benefit box,” he says.
Now he researches heating technologies needed for Greenstorc’s ORC system, coordinating design and specification for worldwide application and optimum efficiency.
Dirk also creates technical documentation for partners and contractors as well as adapting Greenstorc Smart Heat Units (SHUBoxes) to suit the required heat source – ground, solar, air or waste heat to name a few.
Clean, flexible, affordable power
Greenstorc’s heat-to-power technology offers enormous potential in a warming world, Dirk says. “What better technology is there than systems converting this heat into clean electricity?”
Where fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas create more heat and damaging carbon emissions, the SHUBox uses existing heat which would otherwise be wasted or polluting. It can also be scaled to suit demand.
According to Dirk, Greenstorc units can also help bring cost-effective education to communities in emerging nations. Better education means happier people, more productive economies and a sharper focus on conserving the natural environment.
“Nowadays, education relies more and more on electrically driven IT,” he says. “Education for me is a high priority for the world’s population, especially in emerging nations. Access to the internet and computer-based teaching tools can, therefore, help lift people out of poverty so they can afford to look after and appreciate a sustainable planet.”
Dirk is impressed with the small ecological footprint of the Greenstorc system. No major power stations, no pylons, no defacing of the landscape.
“It can provide renewable, reliable, 24/7, 365 days per year power to any community, virtually worldwide, at an affordable price. That’s what excites me!”
Stop blaming, start changing: Sir David Attenborough
Growing up, Dirk was entranced by the way Sir David Attenborough brought the natural world alive, capturing it on film for posterity.
Now we are charged with an even more pressing task – saving the planet itself for posterity. And we don’t have much time, as the celebrated natural historian told the Davos World Economic Forum in January this year.
That’s why Dirk is a passionate supporter of charities like WWF and the World Land Trust, dedicated to preserving ecosystems and endangered wildlife.
“Most frustrating is our short-termism,” Dirk says. “We have grown accustomed to looking at what will benefit unsustainable economic growth now, instead of a sustainable economy for our children and their offspring.
“The emphasis is on developing and taking more land out of sustainable use to the detriment of flora, fauna and the natural beauty of our planet. Yet reducing global warming is an essential part of keeping animal and plant species alive, and a lovely environment for people to live in.”
Meanwhile, Dirk is living his own dream. In 1991 he planted 500 trees next to his UK family home – including oak, ash, willow, sweet chestnut, birch, beech, pine and maple – creating a sanctuary which adjoins the wildlife garden frequented by barn owls. It’s another step towards planetary posterity.
“I’d like to use my career in Greenstorc to spread the word more effectively on renewable and sustainable energy, and help acquire more wild land areas to protect them from human development and destruction.”