Category: Innovative Technologies
The Hague is an important hotspot for innovation in offshore wind technology. The region owes this position to the presence of many international energy, engineering and offshore companies, as well as top research institutions such as Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and TNO, and that Siemens Gamesa has an important office in the city. In the company’s The Hague offices, the engineers of the world’s largest manufacturer of offshore wind turbines are doing the calculations that are used all over the world in new offshore wind parks.
Offshore wind, the Netherlands’ main renewable energy source
Offshore wind is on the eve of spectacular growth in the Netherlands. The Dutch government has targeted to generate around 49 TWh per year of offshore wind energy by 2030 (which corresponds to 11,5 GW installed capacity). The current installed capacity is less than 1 GW. Kuilboer finds even this target too modest. “For us the target could be higher. The North Sea is big enough. And we want to have clarity on the post-2030 goals too as soon as possible.”
What is clear in any case is that offshore wind will become a mainstay of Dutch electricity supply. The Netherlands will be running to a large extent on offshore wind. “We are ready for the task at hand,” says Molenaar, who, like Kuilboer, graduated from a Dutch University of Technology. He notes that the sector has made enormous progress in a very short time.
And all this while the turbines have to function under extreme climatological circumstances. “If you are standing on one of those platforms 25 metres above sea level you will find that it gets pretty rough out there.”
For Molenaar the progress in the sector demonstrates that “a group of men and women have worked with a lot of determination to prove that it is possible to generate offshore wind energy in a cost-effective manner. That we have been able to build turbines standing in the sea, which produce energy reliably and competitively, is quite an achievement. We have underestimated the abilities of the people who wanted to achieve this.”
A significant number of these people work on the 6h floor of the Siemens Gamesa office in The Hague, where some 70 engineers do calculations on currents, ice loads, storms. Kuilboer: “Our engineers make sure that the turbines are able to function under all circumstances. In The Hague, we are responsible in particular for the foundations of the turbine – the monopile and transition pieces. That includes the entire design of the farms. The other parts of our turbines are made in other countries.”
The fact that the foundations’ department is based in The Hague has historical reasons.
A valuable renewable energy ecosystem
Synergies with other companies and research institutions in the region are very important for the company, notes Molenaar. He gives an example. “Traditionally, turbines were designed in parts – the monopile, the transition piece, the nacelle, the blades. We made an integral design of the entire turbine which uses a lot less steel. We could not have done this without collaboration with TU Delft and other research institutions and companies. As a result, we are now the only company in the world to deliver a certified ice load design. That’s the advantage of being in this region. Here is where it all comes together.”
“Wind energy is broader than just the turbine. What matters is the entire chain, including energy policies. That’s one of the reasons that The Hague is an ideal location for Siemens Gamesa, as well as the proximity to other colleagues from the Siemens group, who, for example, work on hydrogen.”
Molenaar says Dutch energy policy has worked out very well for the wind industry. “We managed to convince the government to make a Masterplan for the North Sea, to take into account future developments when granting permits. We now get permits that allow us to respond to new developments, as long as we meet general nature and environmental legislation.” Siemens Gamesa is very happy to be located in The Hague, say Molenaar and Kuilboer. “For us, this is a very good location. It has excellent public transport connections and is close to Schiphol airport. That’s been of great benefit to us.” Molenaar stresses that it is very important for the wind industry to have strong roots in the local and regional economy. “As a sector, we still have to fight established interests. The fact that we generate a lot of jobs creates public support”.