From South Africa to the Netherlands, aiming to conquer Europe from Arnhem

Duan van ’t Slot grew up in South Africa, a land of sun, safaris, and the ‘big five,’ the mightiest animals in the animal kingdom. However, South Africa is also known for power outages. ‘How can we be independent of the energy grid? That question has fascinated me since my youth,’ says Van ’t Slot. The engineer delved into the world of energy systems, developed a self-conceived storage system, and started his own company: Volstora. In 2021, Volstora established itself in Arnhem, the energy city of the Netherlands.

Volstora Assembly lines

Volstora - Assembly lines

But first, back to the beginning. To the South African roots of Van ’t Slot and his company Volstora. 'Energy storage systems can be better, cheaper, and more efficient,' he says. 'And more sustainable. That's why I started Volstora.’ Volstora customizes industrial energy storage systems for businesses. 'Many companies obtain energy storage systems from overseas suppliers, but if service or customization is needed, it quickly becomes complicated. That's why we make our systems entirely ourselves and precisely based on the customer's needs.’ Simply put, Volstora handles each component of each system itself. This attention to detail contributes to safety and reliability, and Volstora provides its own service.

One of the companies using Volstora's energy storage systems is DHL. 'At Schiphol Airport, we implemented a massive battery for DHL. Other clients include Fudura and large agriculture enterprises,' says Duan. 'We are here for all companies that use energy on a large scale,' adds Van ’t Slot. 'We roughly have two types of clients. One group is limited in its growth due to insufficient energy security. The other group wants to contribute to a better world and, therefore, transition from gas to solar energy. We help both clients become independent and contribute to the energy transition.'

Warm welcome in the east

In the energy city of Arnhem and its surroundings, the Volstora team found the perfect environment for their business. 'Arnhem is the electricity city of the Netherlands,' says Shannon Smit, communication manager at Volstora. 'Arnhem has the ideal ecosystem for innovation and technology.' When choosing their location three years ago, Van ’t Slot didn't rush the decision. 'For three months, we visited places in the Netherlands to see what different regions had to offer. Amsterdam had good companies in terms of service. Groningen had plenty of space. But Arnhem stood out. The city's energy history aligns with Volstora.'
Once established in Arnhem, Van ’t Slot is enthusiastic about the entrepreneurial culture. 'We ended up in Arnhem thanks to contact with Oost NL. They pointed us to this city and did everything to warmly welcome us in the eastern part of the country. Industrial Park Kleefse Waard (IPKW) did the same. We are invited to networking events that truly contribute to new leads. Yes, I can honestly say that we had a quick and good landing here.'

'Arnhem helps us realize our ambitions; from here, we reach the Dutch market and the broader European market'

Win-win for the ecosystem

Volstora has developed a close collaboration with electrical installation company Van Lanen B.V. 'Van Lanen is a family business, and they genuinely care about their customers, future generations, and the environment,' says Van ’t Slot. 'Of course, every company needs to make a profit, but we notice that family businesses like Van Lanen are not only profit-driven; they want to leave a better world for their children's children.'

The open and welcoming attitude of Van Lanen B.V. and other Dutch companies is not without reason; other innovative entrepreneurs see Volstora as an asset. 'The problems the region faces in terms of renewable energy can all be solved with storage. By collaborating with local companies and institutions, Volstora contributes to the region's efforts to promote sustainability and economic growth,' says Smit. 'In return, the ecosystem gives us a lot,' Smit continues her story. 'Being part of the regional ecosystem gives us access to students and professionals, allowing us to stay at the forefront of the energy sector. We collaborate, for example, with Hogeschool Arnhem-Nijmegen.

'Something else we owe to the ecosystem is subsidies,' says Smit. 'Oost NL has connected us with the right channels for that. There is plenty of support available for innovation and energy, but you need to know where to go. Thanks to Oost NL, we know that, and the subsidies help us make the investments needed for the energy transition.'

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Volstora photo

Growing team

The first innovative discoveries at Volstora are credited to CEO Van ’t Slot, but nowadays, he is no longer the sole technical brain of the company. 'We started with two employees, of which I am one, but now we have twenty people. Eight of us are engineers, many of whom come from the HAN, including our head engineer. And we plan to add more to our team in the future. Essential for us is that we not only do our own research and development, but we also make sure to do several practical tests. This is important when making everything yourself, to ensure each component is thoroughly tested before implementing it into a system.’

Arnhem as a strategic point in Europe

'The group of nerds,' as Van ’t Slot jokingly calls his team, has ambitious plans. 'In two years, we want to be the best in the Netherlands in our industry, and in five years, we aim to be the European market leader. To achieve that, we must keep innovating and grow towards a team of a hundred employees.’ The CEO sees the Arnhem location as a strategic move: ‘This location will help us achieve our goals. From here, we reach not only the Dutch market but also the broader European market.'