The completion of installation of jackets at ScottishPower Renewables’ 714MW East Anglia 1 [EA1] off UK North Sea was a landmark for both Van Oord and the wider industry as the biggest assignment of its kind so far. Could you detail how you approached the logistics of this work, some of the technologies developed for EA1 including the bespoke installation template used, and what lessons have been learnt that will inform your approach to future installations of this scale and indeed larger, more complex assignments?

The transport side of the East Anglia 1 project involved a large number of manufacturers with different locations of construction and different transporting companies divided over several contracts. To manage these complex logistic aspects we used bespoke warehousing software to not only track but also predict availability and the whereabouts of the different components. As all of the manufacturing scope and some of the transport was managed by the client, an almost daily direct contact platform was set-up between the Van Oord team and the client to manage this process jointly.

The crux of the installation works may be defined as to install piles into the seabed. Once these piles are installed within the required tolerances, the jackets could relatively easily be slotted into place. To ensure accuracy we used a bespoke piling template that catered for varying seabed slopes. After sea trials in early 2018, all 306 piles were installed without requirement of any fine-tuning of the jackets to ensure level installation.

The main lesson learnt is mutually open communication with the client in a joint effort is essential for the operations to be performed as safely, cost-efficiently and timely as possible.

You formed the Witwind consortium with Shell and Eneco to bid in the Netherlands’ Hollandse Kust South 3&4 tender – which will take the Netherlands into the zero-subsidiary era – and you have used a similar consortium structure – Blauwwind – for Borssele 3&4, where monopile installation is now underway. Can you outline the strategy and perceived value behind this consortium approach and the longer-term ambition of using this model more widely in Europe and abroad?

One of the reasons behind the consortium structure for the Borssele III & IV was to get all relevant parties together in an early involvement to achieve the lowest possible bid price. For that moment it was a very successful strategy. In the meantime the focus has been shifted. Bidders are offering zero subsidy bids and within the various tender rounds in Europe different award criteria are applied. This means that for each of the individual upcoming tenders, whether it will be in The Netherlands or abroad, we will look on a case by case basis whether we will form a consortium or not. So, it is certainly not a structural strategy or a longer-term ambition to form a bidding consortia.

The contract win from Orsted for cable installation works at the 900MW Greater Changhua 1 & 2A offshore wind off Taiwan is your first cable project in the region. How large a slice of future installation work globally does Van Oord see Taiwan coming to represent? And how do you see other Asian markets – Japan, South Korea and Vietnam growing for you? And what is your longer-term view of the role European contractors will have off China as it builds many tens of gigawatts in the coming decade?

Van Oord has a very long and fruitful history in the Eastern Asian region, for decades dredging as well as other marine contracting activity has been conducted for Asian clients with the assistance of domestic partners. We are proud to be able to utilise our presence and experience in Asia for the up and coming offshore wind developments. Asia has always been an important market for Van Oord and we expect our recent win in Taiwan is just the start of a further ramp up of offshore wind activity in the region.

We take a regional view on this market when it comes to aligning our organisation as well as our installation assets. On the other hand our solutions for the developments in for example Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Vietnam are tailor-made to suit their individual domestic demands. Our domestic partners in the region have always been and will remain to be of key importance to Van Oord. Even though the necessary framework to bring offshore wind developments into construction isn’t always as stable or complete, this market has a high potential and Van Oord will contribute to the realisation of the ambitions as set the respective governments.

The US offshore wind market continues to present a dilemma for developers insofar as the Jones Act restricts the vessels that can be used on the first construction projects now underway. What’s is Van Oord’s strategy when it comes to the US Atlantic, which is sitting on 25GW-plus pipeline of projects?

Van Oord considers the Jones Act as a market characteristic – of which there are many – that we have to deal with when working in the US. As such, our current strategy is to make use of our offshore installation assets in a way that is compliant with the Jones Act, but relying on a different work method than the traditional way of working when constructing offshore wind farms in Europe. One of these alternative concepts is based on the offshore installation vessel staying on site and setup a feeder system of Jones Act compliant vessels – that is barges, tugs, platform supply vessels or lift boats – shuttling back and forth with the materials that need to be installed from the marshalling port to the installation vessel.

For many years ‘bubble curtains’ were seen as the best way of reducing the noise impact of piling-in operations during wind farm construction offshore, but you are now developing a novel acoustic noise reduction system for Borssele 3&4 with AdBm said to be akin to ‘window blinds’ – that from first trials looks to be a step-change for the better. What are your plans for progressing the technology at the Borssele V ‘lab’? And your far-horizon ambitions for the concept?

At our Borssele projects we plan to further test a number of improvements to the system. The nice aspect of the AdBm technology is that the performance can be tuned to optimise the reduction of noise in certain frequency ranges. After Borssele we will know more about the performance that can be achieved on future projects. Our view is that as long as we will be using impact hammers, it is worthwhile to continuously improve the performance of this noise mitigation system, working with partners such as AdBm and TNO for the predictive models.

Van Oord and Mammoet are cooperating with Verton to design a new lifting method for installing wind turbine blades. How do you see this technology benefitting the offshore sector both in terms of speed of installation and improved safety in operations offshore? And is there a resonance with the blade repair work you’ve been doing, at the Prinses Amalia windpark, for example?

This is indeed a very interesting concept. The technology-readiness is not yet developed to a point where we are considering commercialisation. It is really too early to predict when it can be used on projects such as the blade repair work on, for example, the Prinses Amalia wind farm. We see the biggest opportunity for this technology in making regular lifting operations safer and more efficient.

Your work on the Windpark Fryslân nearshore wind farm in the Netherlands – where you are manufacturing and installing foundations and cables and will deliver the equipment to install the project’s Siemens Gamesa turbines – is an interesting one. Is this seen as a ‘one-off’ or are you looking at other international ‘lake-based’ offshore projects – in the Great Lakes in North America, for instance?

Windpark Fryslan is an important project as it is a large offshore wind farm located in inland water of the Netherlands, the IJsselmeer. So, it is more or less in our back yard. There are synergies with another project of Van Oord, the strengthening of the Afsluitdijk – a dike between the IJsselmeer and the Wadden Sea in the north of the country. The current equipment of Van Oord is too large to be able to reach the IJsselmeer. So, we designed and built dedicated shallow-water equipment that enables us to construct the wind farm. This experience can of course also be used for other shallow water areas that are difficult to reach with large equipment. Even though Windpark Fryslan is close to our heart, our main focus remains offshore wind farms in open sea.