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Den Helder ideal location for optimising wind farm maintenance

Three large wind farms in the north-western part of the North Sea are planned for the coming decade: Dutch West Coast, IJmuiden Ver and North of the Wadden Islands. In view of these expected developments, the Port of Den Helder, together with eight stakeholders, asked ECN part of TNO to investigate the opportunities that this offers for the port of Den Helder and the surrounding region.

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‘Innovations for Port of Den Helder; Infrastructure following Offshore wind developments’

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This study showed that the anticipated growth of offshore wind in the North Sea offers many opportunities for the port of Den Helder. The national trend is that oil and gas production will gradually decrease while the development of offshore wind farms will increase significantly. By 2030, the installed capacity in the Dutch part of the North Sea will already be 11.5 gigawatts and by 2050 another ~ 2 GW per year will be added.

The report mentions the geographical location of the port, the good infrastructure and the proximity of an airport as important elements that make Den Helder an ideal location for new business activity and employment. Located between the other ports of Amsterdam (IJmuiden) and Eemshaven, Den Helder meets all the criteria. As a result, Den Helder can play an excellent role in the development of the wind farms being planned, also in the other countries that are developing wind farms in the southern part of the North Sea.

Optimising maintenance

ECN part of TNO used models for the operations & maintenance (O&M) of wind farms that had been developed in previous projects. These contain everything that is important for the maintenance of the wind turbines and wind farm infrastructure. In addition, the location of future wind farms and their distance from the port of Den Helder are important. Based on a number of O&M strategies, simulations have been carried out in which weather conditions, wind force and direction, waves and currents are varied in order to determine the optimal O&M strategy. This analysis provides the basis for determining the best O&M strategy and requisite amount of port capacity, technicians and support activity.

Prepared for the future

As future offshore wind farms after 2030 will be able to temporarily produce more energy than the Dutch electricity grid needs, the possible role that the Port of Den Helder could play in solving this problem was also investigated. For example, through the production of green hydrogen. Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water with the electricity generated by the offshore wind farms. Here too, Den Helder is well positioned, given the infrastructure available, such as three major gas pipelines currently being used to transport natural gas from the North Sea.

Hydrogen as fuel

These pipelines, with appropriate modifications, can also be used for the transport of hydrogen. In addition, the feasibility of building a plant for the production of blue hydrogen from natural gas is being investigated, whereby the CO2 is captured and pumped back to empty gas fields via the same pipelines. In order to actively participate in the energy transition, Den Helder wants to build a hydrogen tank system in the port so that ships visiting the port of Den Helder can refuel with hydrogen instead of oil. Both the Dutch Coastguard and the Royal Netherlands Navy have indicated that they intend to use hydrogen to fuel part of their fleet.

Facilities can also be realised in the region for the cultivation and storage of offshore biomass products such as seaweed.

Decreased activities

A strong advantage for the Port of Den Helder is the presence of Den Helder Airport. This makes it possible to quickly bring maintenance personnel to wind farms, even when weather conditions prevent ships doing this.

It is anticipated that the activities in the Port of Den Helder will increase substantially as the wind energy activities start up faster than the oil & gas activities decrease. The report makes an estimate of the likely increase in employment. The report therefore endorses the preparations that the Port of Den Helder must make in order to provide the facilities necessary for further developments at sea. Expansion of the infrastructure is essential in order to be well prepared in good time and to maintain and strengthen its strong position.

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