Region facing enormous challenge to realise 18 times more wind energy at sea

A double interview with the new AYOP director Dionne Ruurda and new chairman Peter van de Meerakker was published in the Amports magazine Ways to Sea. The interview can be read below.

Region facing enormous challenge to realise 18 times more wind energy at sea

“We have the wind in our sails”


While the Dutch government zooms in on offshore wind energy as a critical part of the energy transition, achieving its goals will be a race against the clock. Network association Amsterdam IJmuiden Offshore Ports (AYOP) can play a key role herein say director Dionne Ruurda and chair Peter van de Meerakker.

AYOP is a network association with 125 members, including companies, regional government bodies and research & education institutes active in offshore wind energy and the oil & gas sector in the North Sea Canal region. Dionne Ruurda has been the new director of AYOP since 1 September and brings extensive experience of the seaport region to the table. Having worked for Tata Steel for eight years, Ruurda spent the last five years working as an independent communication advisor and project manager in the field of technology and wind energy. She is clear about her motivation for joining the AYOP team.

“The number of association members has significantly increased over recent years and its reputation has grown in tandem. This serves as an excellent foundation and I am keen to help the organisation develop further by creating new opportunities for our members. I see myself as a lynchpin in facilitating cooperation between members by listening closely to their opinions, enhancing connections and sharing information from the market.”

AYOP also supports its members by protecting their interests, promoting the region as an ideal business location, stimulating mutual knowledge exchange, joint participation in and visits to (inter)national exhibitions, providing access to the AYOP network, and more. In addition, the association closely monitor all tenders for offshore wind issued by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

Boundless ambition

Although Peter van de Meerakker, general director of Zeehaven IJmuiden NV, has been involved in AYOP since its establishment, he took on a new role in June as chair of the association. “It may be a cliché, but it’s true: together you can achieve more, and this is certainly the case for AYOP – together we have so much to offer the market. Such a shared approach is especially important now with so many challenges coming our way.”

Van de Meerakker is referring to the seemingly boundless ambitions of the Dutch government regarding wind at sea. By 2030, all wind turbines in the North Sea combined should produce 21 gigawatts. And the goal is to expand this further to some 50 gigawatts by 2040 and 72 gigawatts by 2050. To put this in perspective, the wind farms currently operational, including the Hollandse Kust Zuid which opened in late September, generate a total of four gigawatts. This translates into an eighteen-fold increase in generated power within a period of just 28 years. A step in the right direction will soon be made with the installation of the wind farms IJmuiden Ver, Hollandse Kust Noord and Hollandse Kust West.

It is important to note that this does not mean that the North Sea will be full of wind turbines. Where current models generate three megawatts, those installed in Hollandse Kust Zuid produce 11 megawatts per turbine. And for future wind farms, government tenders indicate that turbines should generate at least 15 megawatts each. Van de Meerakker: “While this is an understandable request in view of the space at sea, it represents a real challenge for parties considering submitting a tender as the 15-megawatt turbines are currently little more than prototypes.”

The Dutch tender system is more favourable for energy companies than those of other EU member states and the UK. “Companies that submit a tender in the Netherlands know that TenneT will place the cables and ensure the grid connection,” explains Van de Meerakker. “And the winner immediately has all the required licenses (ensuring the permit to build), which means they can start straight away.”

Local knowledge and skills

“You could say that AYOP has the wind in its sails as there are billions in funding available that look likely to end up with our members,” continues Van de Meerakker. “We obviously hope that the energy companies who win the tenders for the installation of the wind farms in the North Sea will use the knowledge and skills of local companies.” And that’s where AYOP comes in, adds Ruurda: “As soon as an energy company wins a tender, AYOP immediately congratulates them with a large cake. AYOP members are then given the opportunity to show the tender winner what they have to offer in a supply chain meeting.”

And they do have a lot to offer, as Ruurda makes clear in summing up the sectors represented by AYOP members: from safety clothing and training, containers, lifting technology, engineering, logistics and transport to marine contracting, recycling, HR, recruitment and catering. “This is what makes our network association so valuable,” she says with a smile.

Energy Port necessary

The use of local companies is also the most sustainable option: all planned wind farms will be built off the coast of IJmuiden in the direction of Den Helder. To keep the number of movements on the water to a minimum – and the associated nitrogen and CO2 emissions – installation and maintenance activities would be most efficiently and effectively carried out from the IJmuiden port. But this currently has insufficient space, which is why AYOP has been advocating the transformation of the dredging depot in the former Averijhaven port into an Energy Port: a major base of operations for the installation of wind farms.

While everyone agrees that the Energy Port is needed and preparations have already started, the discovery of slag – a residual product from the steel industry often used to strengthen roads and dykes – in the area surrounding the Averijhaven is causing delays. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) and Tata Steel ‘own’ the steel slag in the Averijhaven. Ruurda and Van de Meerakker are doing everything in their power to make clear to all stakeholders that the new wind farms in the North Sea will lead to a significant demand in quay facilities and port premises – facilities currently unavailable in IJmuiden or elsewhere on the Dutch coast.

In the worst-case scenario, companies will have to go as far as Northern Germany or the Danish ports, which would result in higher costs and substantial nitrogen and CO2 emissions due to longer movements on the water. Realising the ambition of 21 gigawatts by 2030 demands the timely realisation of the Energy Port, emphasises Van de Meerakker, making it crucial to quickly find a solution.

Preparations ongoing

The steel slag is not stopping AYOP from preparing for what is to come. The association recently launched an ‘offshore energy learning community’ with its members to map out the knowledge and skills that companies require. AYOP members from the educational sector can then ensure schooling is adapted to the needs of the industry. Other developments, such as the rise of the hydrogen industry, are also closely monitored by the director. “In the coming years, however, our main focus will remain firmly on offshore wind energy and other offshore activities related to the energy transition,” concludes Ruurda.