Sunprojects rejects accusations over AZ stadium roof collapse

Solar energy company Sunprojects has moved to deny reports that the installation of its products could have been responsible for the collapse of part of the roof at AFAS Stadion, home of Dutch Eredivisie football club AZ Alkmaar.

The incident happened on Saturday whilst the stadium was not in operation and has hit the headlines in the Netherlands and further afield. The centre of the Molenaar Stand caved in on itself amid strong winds in the Netherlands over the weekend.

The spotlight has now been shone on the installation of around 1,700 solar panels on the roof of the stadium, following the disclosure of a video by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. In the video, Sunprojects commercial director Anna Lambrechts appeared to indicate that the stadium was not designed to accommodate solar panels.

Lambrechts indicated that there were a number of challenges when installing the solar panels, “including the (stadium) construction, which of course was not calculated for solar panels”. She added: “But together with our suppliers we… devised a solution for this and the panels have been placed on the roof after all.”

The video had been used as promotional material by Sunprojects, but was pulled from its website following Saturday’s incident. The company has now sought to clarify Lambrechts’ comments, stating they were made four years ago and the wording can cause confusion.

In a statement reported by the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper, Sunprojects said: “The comments in the promotional film are about the mounting system that was used for the solar panels and do not relate to the architectural aspects of the stadium roof.

“Due to the lack of clarity of the term used and various recent questions about the specific explanation of the above comment from 2015, the promotional video has been temporarily removed from the Sunprojects website.”

Sunprojects added: “In connection with the ongoing investigations and its involvement in this, Sunprojects is currently not providing additional information to third parties about the project for the benefit of these investigations.”

Meanwhile, Chris de Wild, spokesperson for the Municipality of Alkmaar, has denied claims from AZ that it was granted a building permit four years ago for the installation of the solar panels. He said: “No, that simply wasn’t necessary. According to the Building Decree, solar panels can be installed without an adapted building permit or inspection.

“Calculations by the constructor showed that the roof could support the panels. At the time, we were kept well informed about the plans and calculations, that was sufficient for the municipality.”

AZ spokesperson Eelke Schulte Nordholt said that the stadium’s engineer, Ingenieursgroep Romkes BV, had carried out extensive calculations to determine whether the stadium’s roof could bear the weight of the solar panels. He added: “It showed that it was possible.”

AZ has hired engineering and consultancy firm Royal HaskoningDHV to conduct an investigation into the incident, while the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) is also carrying out its own probe. In the meantime, AZ has moved Thursday’s UEFA Europa League qualifier against FC Mariupol and Sunday’s Eredivisie game versus FC Groningen to ADO Den Haag’s Cars Jeans Stadion, with De Telegraaf reporting that it could be set for a lengthy stay away from its home ground.

Wilco Ankersmit of the Association of Building and Housing Supervision said: “They can now clean up the mess, but then it remains to be determined whether the rest of the stadium is safe. This will take months.”

Regarding the solar panels, he added: “A pack of snow is heavier than a solar panel. That should not have been the cause of the collapse of the roof.”

Image: AZ Alkmaar