Van Oord has taken on the responsibility for laying the foundations for all of the Netherlands’ offshore wind farms and is the worldwide market leader in this field. Dolf Elsevier van Griethuysen, business developer at the Offshore Wind division, talks about the company’s in-house talents and marine ingenuity.
Text: Rob Schoemaker
In the three areas in which the family business Van Oord is active – dredging, offshore oil & gas and offshore wind – wind is the most pronounced growth market. “The Dutch government’s consistent policy – with the new tender system and the certainty this brings regarding permits, preliminary seabed investigations in the parcels and the appointment of Tennet as the sole grid operator at sea – is bearing fruit,” says Dolf Elsevier van Griethuysen, business developer at Van Oord. “The expectation is also that this policy, partly driven by the Paris accords, will be continued by the next government and that this consistency, plus the inevitable increase in scale, will open the door to a stable cost-price reduction. It might also lead to investment by installation companies, for example.
“As an EPC provider, we are involved in everything apart from the manufacture of turbines, foundations and cables. We have special vessels for the placement of foundations and installing the turbines on them, such as the offshore installation vessel Aeolus, the cable layer Nexus and the heavy lift vessel Svanen, which move from one wind farm construction site to another in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Germany and Denmark. And Van Oord does even more. At the Gemini wind farm to the north of Groningen we have assumed 10% of the risk to improve the project’s chances of success.”
Turbine manufacturers are mainly based in Denmark. Van Oord’s installation vessels pick up the turbines there and sail directly to the wind farm. “This has proven to be the most efficient method,” says Van Griethuysen. “The real roll-out of wind energy in the Netherlands and its neighbouring countries has yet to begin. Within the Energy Accord, the Netherlands will increase energy production from 1,000 MW from its first four farms to 4,500 MW, while Germany and the UK are aiming to generate 6.5 and 10 gigawatts by 2020. Upscaling is inevitable: Gemini, where the final turbine has just been installed, has 4 MW turbines but 8 MW turbines are already being built. In light of this, we will soon place a more powerful crane on our offshore installation vessel Aeolus with a lifting capacity of 1,600 tons. Our EPC competitors will also introduce new equipment, of course, and there are also countless other suppliers active in this market. That can only be good for prices.”
As this also applies to turbines and cables, Van Griethuysen says that more players should be active in these fields. “There could be a shortage if something doesn’t happen soon. For cables, there are now also a number of suppliers from the Far East who can deliver interesting products, but we are not yet seeing this for turbines. If the necessary growth in production occurs, it presents an immediate opportunity for our ports to make the case for becoming a remote assembly location for cable or turbine manufacturers. This would immediately highlight the strength of the integrated Dutch offshore sector in which offshore wind is currently on the rise – something which is common knowledge among insiders but receives relatively little attention. It would also generate some major associated industrial and employment opportunities.”
The sector is still young and developments in the laying of foundations are proceeding apace. “In the four Dutch wind farms we have already applied three different techniques to install turbines on their foundations and secure the transition piece,” Van Griethuysen explains. “First with an adhesive joint (grout), then with a flanged joint and now, at Gemini, with a combination of grout and flange. Developments are taking place quickly and our engineering staff has launched numerous innovations. Such developments often need time to bed in, especially considering the extensive consultation that takes place with interested parties, which need to give their approval. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. At the end of the day, everything needs to be done right and the turbines should continue to work for decades.”
Van Oord also works with sector organisations such as IRO (supply), NWEA (wind) and NOGEPA (oil & gas), and on all kinds of programme (including those subsidised by the government) to conduct joint research. “In addition to the four existing production parcels at Borssele, a fifth is also planned,” Van Griethuysen concludes. “This will include two turbine positions to demonstrate innovative elements in the field of turbines, foundations and connections. This is very useful for testing whether things work before introducing them on a larger scale.”