Day in the life: Rick Fransen – Business Development Manager
Solarcentury’s Rick Fransen has been in the solar industry for 30 years and has rightly been named Rickipedia. Here we learn more about his extensive knowledge and passion for everything solar.
How long have you been working in solar?
30 years. Since 1st May 1989.
Why solar energy? What motivates you to work within this sector?
I studied physics and after my graduation I wanted to do something that I thought could make a valuable contribution to society and at the same time appease my technical hunger. I accidentally ended up in solar energy, which was still in its infancy in those days, technically, commercially and socially. I have been involved in all aspects of this industry from the beginning; it’s a very dynamic industry, which is what makes it so interesting. And, when you work in solar energy, you always have interesting stories to tell at a party.
People know you as ‘Rickipedia’ for solar energy, where did you get that name and how do you keep track of all the knowledge and developments?
Because of my extensive experience in almost all aspects of solar energy, I have become the source of questions within the organisation. An old colleague of mine came up with that name and told everyone that if you didn’t know something or wanted to know the exact details about something, you should ask Rickipedia!
In my 30 years in the industry, I’ve worked on many aspects of solar. From battery research to pre-paid solar home systems. I’ve been involved in the production of the first autonomous zero-energy house in the Netherlands, the largest residential neighbourhood in the Netherlands for solar energy, two noise barriers with integrated solar panels, glass facades with bifacial solar cells (The Heron Tower solar panels are designed by me), and also a number of two-axis tracker farms in Italy. In short, a very wide spectrum of solar projects – all contributing to my Rickipedia nickname.
I keep my knowledge up to date by being actively involved in many aspects of the development of solar farms and by being part of project groups that look at specific topics within the industry, innovations such as floating solar farms and reactive power.
In what ways has the sector changed in the past 30 years?
In particular, the market has become much larger and more professional. 30 years ago, the sector was very small and very technology-driven. The first solar panel factory I worked on was producing less than 1 MWp. Today, the large plants produce 10,000 times as much (10 GWp) on an annual basis. Technology certainly still plays an important role, but the role of social acceptance, politics, commerce and finance has increased considerably.
What has kept you at Solarcentury for 7 years? Where does the adrenaline come from?
Solarcentury is at the forefront when it comes to solar. As a pioneer, you have to think of, and develop, new ideas all the time, and those are the challenges that attract me.
What does a Business Development Manager and his team do?
A business developer is involved in the development of solar energy projects in the broadest sense of the word. This includes new technological developments as well as coordinating how the customer’s requirements can be delivered in the installation. In my case, contract negotiation is also an important aspect of business development.
To what extent have you been involved in the development of the Budel solar farm, and what is it like to work on such a large project in your backyard?
I have been involved with Budel solar farm from the beginning. I coordinated the requirements of the responsible party on this site (in the province of Noord-Brabant) and wrote them into an implementation plan used during the build. In addition, I was responsible for the first technical design and some specific new techniques applied at this site such as the screw foundation used and the 800V AC architecture.
You have been in the renewable energy sector for over 30 years. What is the impact of this on your personal life?
The fact that I’ve been in the renewable energy sector for 30 years means that in my personal life I also pay attention to sustainability. I don’t live in a zero-energy house with the heating a degree lower. But I am working on reducing my ten minute showers! And I’m always busy telling my children to close the doors behind them and turn off the lights.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to enter the solar energy sector?
Just do it. There are so many aspects to solar energy – there is something for everyone. The market will only keep on growing.
How I started is a good story. After the second round of interviews with my first employer, Shell Solar (which was then still called R&S), I was the only remaining candidate. When the terms and conditions of employment were agreed, I was ready to start. Every week I phoned and was told that due to internal reorganisations I would have to wait, but that I would certainly hear the following week. I got so tired of waiting that I packed my lunchbox and reported to the reception desk, telling them I could start immediately! The receptionist was flabbergasted but it did the trick, and that next Monday i was in.
What do you do to relax? Do you still have time for hobbies?
I cycle (too little at the moment) and I photograph. I like to read, and my girlfriend and I have four old caravans that we are refurbishing, in which we regularly travel in.
Last question – What is the future of solar energy?