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The Northern European States and the companies involved in the development of offshore wind projects in the North Sea area represent some of the world leaders when it comes to technology, commissioned capacity, and long-term project ambitions.
The energy ministers of Belgium, Denmark, and Germany joined the executives of more than 25 companies, leaders in the offshore wind industry, to issue a Joint Statement to further the deployment of offshore wind energy in Europe. Together, they backed a pledge to install 60 GW of offshore wind capacity in the next decade, a fivefold increase from existing levels.
Additionally, the Joint Statement was signed by representatives of the oil industry such as Statoil and Shell, which expect substantial changes in the global energy mix and are moving towards a low-carbon energy system in which RES may increase. Concretely, Shell’s Vice-President for new energies, Mark Gainsborough, pointed out “the importance of offshore large-scale development of offshore wind power” and announced that the company is looking to grow its footprint in wind in the coming years.
The offshore wind industry is considered a crucial component in accomplishing Europe’s energy transition and an important driver for overall European economic development. Although the North Sea Region (NSR) is one of the world’s leading areas for offshore wind development, projects there face challenges such as the need for constant innovation and cost reductions and are not always fully supported by the public and policy in the North Sea States.
New interregional project for the North Sea Region
At the biggest offshore wind energy forum held on 06-08 June in London, representatives from the offshore wind clusters of Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the UK launched a new four-year project called Inn2POWER to address some of the industry’s issues. The project is supported by 11 partners from the five countries and its “overall objective is to improve innovation capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to facilitate access to the offshore wind industry by creating the appropriate supportive conditions”.
The project is co-funded by the EU through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is within the Interreg framework, which facilitates interregional cooperation and enhanced policy across the regional and local governments in the region. Inn2POWER would aim to help “SMEs [that] are challenged by disadvantages of size, complex procurements, high costs and insufficient understanding of the (global) market for their services” by enabling them to “collaborat[e] on a regional, sectoral, and transnational level”.
The Inn2POWER Project Manager, Ann Kempeneers, stated that “Inn2POWER is the first project to get that the NSR regional clusters and other supporting organisations in the offshore wind industry will work closely together on the shared goal of bringing their SMEs across the borders to engage them in innovative business collaborations”. The project is expected to facilitate cooperation between the leading offshore wind clusters and to improve the access of SMEs to relevant infrastructure, which in turn could increase their innovation capabilities and attractiveness for skilled workers for the NSR region.
New specialised offshore wind hub
The authorities of the Port of Rotterdam announced that they will begin to construct a new dedicated area to serve the needs of the offshore industry. The port, covering more than 100 square kilometres, is the largest in Europe and one of the busiest in the world. It is thus one of the main gathering points for the various vessels and expertise engaged in the construction of offshore wind projects in the North Sea.
The new development will be located in Princess Alexiahaven under the name Offshore Center Maasvlakte 2 (OCMV2). Furthermore, it will span around 70 hectares of space dedicated to supporting the offshore wind industry and to the decommissioning process of oil and gas platforms in the North Sea. According to the Port Authority, the new site will include “total solutions for the expected expansion of offshore activities, [as well as] room for construction, assembly, heavy lift, logistics, commissioning and decommissioning”.
The Chief Executive of the Port of Rotterdam, Allard Castelein, announced that the development of offshore wind farms in the area has a huge potential, which “requires a specialised port area for the installation and maintenance of the farms, which [the Port Authority] would like to provide. This is consistent with [the] efforts to be the offshore hub of Europe and play a leading role in the energy transition”. The first businesses are expected to be operational at the OCMV2 in 2019.
The development of such interregional cooperation initiatives in the North Sea area is an example of the offshore wind ambitions of the States in the area. The construction of remarkable infrastructural projects such as the OCMV2 shows the readiness of the industry to work towards the delivery of more offshore wind capacity in the NSR, using innovative technologies that will result in lower prices for the end-customer.