The North Sea remains Europe's offshore wind "gold mine". That is why, commissioned by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), several ships are currently conducting soil investigations in these waters. In May, 4 research vessels will sail simultaneously in one week - more than ever before. The ships map areas designated for the construction of wind farms. In addition, 5 measurement campaigns for wind and water research will soon be active in the Dutch North Sea.
With the data from these soil, wind and water studies, wind farm developers can optimise their plans and designs for offshore wind farms. The Dutch Government has taken on responsibility for the site investigations. As a result, it has worked to significantly improve the quality of the data from the site characterisation studies and the cost of offshore wind has reduced considerably in recent years.
RVO has been conducting site characterisation studies for planned wind farms since 2015. Various offshore wind farms have been built in recent years and more will follow in coming years because the target for offshore wind has been raised. In 2030/2031, the Netherlands aims to have 21 gigawatts (GW) of operating offshore wind energy capacity. That is why they need to increase the number of studies. In this way, the Government will meet the tight deadlines for delivering the results before the permits for the wind farms can be issued.
From May 2023, four Fugro ships will be sailing in the North Sea on behalf of RVO. They will conduct research into the conditions and composition of the soil. After shallow soil samples are obtained by these ships, another ship will take deeper samples. The deeper samples are retrieved from a depth of 60 metres. The ships map the subsoil. This helps developers in their planning for the wind turbine foundations and cables that will be installed there.
Wind and water studies will also take place at the same time as the soil investigations. These are performed by GEOxyz and RPS, using the most modern techniques, such as floating lasers (LiDARs) for determining wind speeds. This puts RVO and the Netherlands at the forefront internationally. In the coming period, GEOxyz and RPS will conduct 5 measurement campaigns, each using 2 measurement buoys in the North Sea. They will measure wind speeds within an area, but also investigate the effect the wind farms will have on each other. These campaigns last two years per wind energy area.
The wind and water measurements help developers calculate the energy yield of a wind farm as accurately as possible. Furthermore, the soil investigations and the wave and current measurements help them optimise their wind farm designs and construction plans. For example, the Netherlands is becoming increasingly efficient in building offshore wind farms to achieve the national objective. In this way, we make an important contribution to a more sustainable Netherlands and to achieving the climate objectives.