Insight

Architecture Biennale promotes wind power

During the meeting of the Energy Council on 6 June, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Kamp signed a letter of intent with the ‘North Sea countries’. The signatories have agreed to work together on the planning and construction of large-scale wind farms at sea. This agreement is a direct outcome of the ‘2050 – An Energetic Odyssey’ project, which is presented at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) with the support of the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

The Netherlands entered into the agreement with Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium, France, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. This joint approach is necessary to comply with the European climate objectives, which outline an 80-95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared to levels in 1990. One of the paths through which the countries can achieve this is by making the transition towards wind energy as a source of renewable power.

An Energetic Odyssey

Isabelle Vries, who works as Senior Strategist for the Port of Rotterdam Authority, explains how the plans came about. “Last year, IABR curator Maarten Hajer had the idea of organising a large-scale presentation that shows all the things you can achieve with wind energy and what needs to be done in this context,” says Vries. “And to simultaneously give thought to new, smarter approaches. Right now, for example, countries along the North Sea coast all plan their own, separate wind farms. Ultimately, these initiatives are a lot more expensive than they need to be – and at the same time, a lot less efficient. Maarten Hajer saw more potential in scaling up these programmes to larger farms further out at sea: an approach that requires adequate collaboration between mutually reinforcing parties.”

International wind farm

The IABR curator set to work on his idea and brought together a diverse team for realising this ambition. “Mr Hajer arranged an appointment with the CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Allard Castelein. But he also got in touch with a number of other parties, including Shell, Van Oord, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, RWE, Natuur & Milieu and TenneT,” says Vries. “We jointly worked out the project ‘2050 – An Energetic Odyssey’ in a studio. The landscape architects of H+N+S made a visual representation of large-scale offshore power generation, while the firm Ecofys provided the supporting calculations. The installation that ultimately came out of this – which can presently be viewed at IABR – shows how we can use offshore wind power to achieve the adopted climate objectives. We’re talking about some 25,000 wind turbines, which will be installed in the period until 2050. This creates tremendous opportunities for employment and new business activity in and around the ports. Minister Kamp subsequently brought this to the attention of other ministers and policy-makers in Northern Europe. As such, this initiative gave impetus to the plans to draw up an international programme for offshore wind farms in the North Sea.”

Installation during IABR

Working in the studio, the partners also looked into third-party interests and associated challenges. “Examples include the shipping industry, permits, network management, operating in each other’s territorial waters and the question of how to transfer the power back to dry land,” explains Vries. “But nature was definitely also an important focus. The programme needs to take a variety of matters into account, including fish stocks, deepsea ecosystems and flyways for migratory birds. These aspects have all been elaborated and visualised in the installation.”

Rotterdam front-runners

On Monday evening, 13 June, 15 Rotterdam players already announced their ambition to play a leading role in the offshore wind sector. Joining strengths in the ‘Rotterdam Offshore Wind Delta’ initiative, the parties signed a letter of intent. According to Vries, the ports will be playing a key role in this project. “The ports facilitate challenges like this. Of course, the wind turbines will need to be constructed and transported, for which a lot of space is needed as well as a substantial number of special vessels that can transport the turbines. Maasvlakte is an ideal location for this kind of thing, thanks to the space and, of course, its situation. In addition, one can already find a lot of knowledge in this field in Rotterdam,” says Vries.

Positive impact on employment

And of course, once one of these wind farms has been realised, it will need maintenance and servicing. “These tasks can also be facilitated from the port of Rotterdam. In other words, the planned construction of these wind farms will not only have a lot of positive consequences for the sustainability of our future power supply, but definitely also for employment.”

The installation can be viewed until 10 July at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam in the Fenixloods.

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