Kick-off for innovations in the North Sea

Column by Maarten Timmerman

It is well known that the offshore wind sector faces the major challenge tot reduce costs with forty percent over the next few years. Innovations and demonstrations play an important role. The fact that there are hardly any places to test pioneering innovations is something many people do not realise. Especially offshore sites are scarce. Not only in the Netherlands but also throughout Europe. The good news is that the starting signal for innovations in the Dutch North Sea has been given.

The Dutch government is allocating specific offshore locations for the demonstration of new technology. This is a major boost for the sector and absolutely necessary to convince developers and financiers to implement innovations in regular parks.

Back in 2010, it was already noted by the Taskforce on Offshore Wind Energy that innovations are crucial to reduce the costs of offshore wind energy. After recording it in the Innovation contract and the Energy Agreement and research by the sector under the heading “Leeghwater”, the TKI Wind at Sea developed a sector broad-based plan. Following this plan the Ministry of Economic Affairs has reserved areas in the tender for offshore wind energy to showcase ground-breaking innovations in so-called “co-locations”. The strength of the project lies in the physical and contractual decoupling of innovation locations relative to the normal wind farms that will be built in the Dutch wind zones.

The producers of the next generation of wind turbines and foundations can show the market on these demonstration sites that they can provide full and economically viable alternatives to existing technology. But there is also room for small breakthrough innovations.

It is good to see that the Dutch government is now giving a substantial boost to achieve the objectives of the Energy Agreement. The deployment of offshore wind is really starting to take serious form. In recent years, the Netherlands is very low in the polls in terms of renewable energy in Europe. The entire European Union is miles ahead. But that will change. Let this be a flying start to catch up. Then we will be a winner in the field of sustainability in a couple of years and on our way to 100% renewable electricity by 2050.

There is a positive vibe in the sector and you also see that our foreign colleagues are increasingly interested in what we are doing. That room for innovations now is created, gives the offshore wind policy in the Netherlands a new élan that I was hoping for, for years.