Wind is a robust and sustainable source of energy. It is inexhaustible, and large-scale use of offshore wind turbines can make an enormous contribution to the global production of sustainable energy, and hence to the attainment of the world climate objectives.
Two Dutch offshore wind farms have been in operation since March 2009. The Egmond aan Zee Offshore Wind Farm (OWEZ) is a large-scale demonstration project with 36 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 3 MW. OWEZ is owned and operated by Shell and NUON, and was built by Ballast Nedam and Vestas. The purpose of this project is to develop knowledge and experience in building and operating large offshore wind farms. The Egmond aan Zee Offshore Wind Farm will hopefully provide much useful information about the technical and economic viability of offshore wind energy. In particular, further technical knowledge is required regarding the supporting structure (foundations) in relation to the depth of the water and the combined impact of wind and waves.
The other new Dutch offshore wind farm was originally known simply as ‘Q7’ but has since been renamed Princess Amalia Wind Farm. It is owned by Eneco, Econcern, and an anonymous investment consortium. Construction was undertaken by Van Oord en Vestas. This wind farm has sixty Vestas V-80 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 2 MW. It stands 23 kilometres off the coast, on roughly the same line of latitude as IJmuiden, in water of between 19 and 24 metres deep, in an area designated Block Q7 (hence the original name). Princess Amalia Wind Farm is the world’s largest wind farm to be constructed outside the 12-mile ‘territorial waters’ zone and also holds the world record in terms of the depth of the water in which it stands. Princess Amalia Wind Farm became operational on 4 June 2008.
Unique Selling Points
• In addition to knowledge and experience in the construction of complete wind turbines, the Netherlands has a number of (off-shore) specialists in areas such as blade design, installation technology, on-site maintenance, and foundation design. The Dutch companies Heerema, Mammoet van Oord, and Ballast Nedam are noted for their expertise in foundation technology for offshore wind farms. Almost all vessels (the so-called ‘jack-ups’) used to install offshore wind turbines were designed by the Dutch company IHC-Gusto.
• The Netherlands has an excellent knowledge base with regard to wind energy. The partnership of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), ECN, and WMC is among the Top Three in the country in the field of wind energy research.
• The Netherlands has a number of excellent test facilities, including ECN’s test field, WMC’s blade and materials test lab, and the wind tunnels of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), TU Delft, and the German Dutch Wind Tunnels company.
• Foundation technology is a very important aspect in terms of both cost management and environmental management. Companies such as Grontmij, Heerema, Mammoet van Oord, and Ballast Nedam have broad expertise and much practical experience in this area.
• Given the space available and the high wind speeds at sea, offshore wind energy has far greater potential than onshore wind energy. It has been estimated that offshore wind energy could actually produce over twice the world’s projected electricity requirement in 2020. The turbines can be clustered in huge wind farms, well out of sight from the coast. They can then be much larger than their onshore counterparts, which are generally subject to height restrictions to reduce adverse visual impact. Moreover, the noise of the blades and rotation mechanisms will raise no objections when the turbines are sited offshore.
• Dutch engineering and consultancy companies have gained much experience in producing Environmental Impact Assessments, based on the Egmond aan Zee project and various ongoing offshore projects in the North Sea.
• The projections are that electricity generated using offshore wind energy will offer a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels by the year 2020.
Wind energy is a clean form of energy production which accounts for no emissions of CO2 or any of the other hazardous substances associated with the use of fossil fuels (coal, gas, and oil) or nuclear energy. It is the only truly renewable energy source from which a limitless supply of electricity can be generated with zero emissions and at relatively low costs.
Climate impact of Princess Amalia Wind
The current combined capacity of Princess Amalia Wind Farm is 120 MW, whereupon it can produce approximately 435 GWh of electricity each year. This is enough to meet the energy requirements of 125,000 households and represents a reduction in CO2 emissions of some 225 Ktons.
Market parties and research institutes
ABB, AE Rotortechniek, Ballast Nedam, BAM, Componenta, CTS Wind, Darwind, Econcern/Ecofys, ECN*, Eneco, EWT/Directwind, Grontmij*, Heerema*, LM Rotorbladen, Mainwind, Mammoet van Oord, Nuon, Raedthuys Group, RWE, SenterNovem*, Shell, Siemens Nederland, Sif Group, TU Delft, Vattenfall, and Vestas
(NB This list is not comprehensive)
Best practice reference projects in the Netherlands
• Egmond aan Zee Offshore Wind Farm
• Princess Amalia Wind Farm (Q7)
Possible obstacles to international business
• Feed-in tariffs: there is no guarantee of receiving a good price for electricity supplied to the national grid.
• Laying the necessary transport connections demands substantial investment: who is to pay and who will be responsible for management and maintenance?
• Possible protracted discussions regarding division of responsibilities.
• Lack of knowledge regarding likely returns.