Grimsby is the poster child of offshore wind's industrialisation

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 31 Mar 2016

OFFSHORE wind is playing out well for Grimsby and the wider Humber, according to a senior figure at the forefront of the industry.

Huub den Rooijen is director of energy, minerals and infrastructure at The Crown Estate, and has led on offshore wind for the organisation that manages the seabed on behalf of the nation for the past four years.

In an exclusive interview as part of the Renewing the Humber supplement, published today in Grimsby and Scunthorpe, he was invited to reflect on the progress made in the sector that his team facilitates on behalf of the Sovereign.

Mr den Rooijen said: “Grimsby is quite a success story and in some ways is the poster child for the development of the industrial opportunities that this industry can bring.

“We have analysed the offshore wind resources around the UK, they are world class, and we have run a number of bidding rounds to bring these resources to the market. I think, from a Grimsby perspective, it is a stroke of good fortune that you are sitting next to some of the best real estate in the world in regard to offshore wind.

“It is not just environmental conditions, with wind and water depth, but also you have got to have ports where you can construct, where you can carry out work for 20 to 25 years, and we hope longer.

“We need to have labour available, grid connections too. I think it has played out well for the Humber, and critically with operations and maintenance, for Grimsby.”

He was a guest at the opening of Westermost Rough offshore wind farm in July last year, and the setting in the shadow of the iconic Dock Tower has remained with him too.

“I was quite struck by the contrast between the old historical elements and the new forward looking investment. It struck me as quite a harmonious blend,” he said.

Prior to his arrival at The Crown Estate Mr van Rooijen worked as an international adviser, and previously was project director of two Dutch wind farms and was responsible for the UK’s first foray, a two-turbine pilot at Blyth.

Round Three, with Hornsea and Dogger Bank off the Humber sailing corridor, has been a recent significant focus.

“We have been pushing it very hard, working with developers and Government to make sure this technology is given a fair opportunity to prove its worth,” he said, reflecting on his work.

And there is belief in the framework now set out, partly late last year and again in the past fortnight, that this is certainly happening.

Interviewed as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s 2016 Budget was approved, Mr den Rooijen said: “This is very topical with the Budget coming through. The announcement for future Contracts for Difference auctions, another 4GW of offshore wind, that’s great news.

“If we zoom out a little further, last year a little over 5 per cent of all electricity consumed in the nation was provided by offshore wind. That’s from a zero start in 2000, when the first turbines were installed. In 15 years to go from zero to 5 per cent is humongous growth, and what we see now with the projects already under construction, and projects that have financial support secured, we will be doubling that over the next couple of years.

“By 2020 an average of 10 per cent of the electricity nationwide will be provided by offshore wind. That’s extremely significant growth and quite a lot of that, the future projects, are in Grimsby’s neck of the woods. Keep your eye on the ball would be my message to the reader, a lot is going to happen.

“Beyond 2020, will it continue? This comes back to the Budget announcement, and it is quite clear that while we have good news, it is fair to say there is a big challenge in cost and affordability. I think it is something the sector needs to tackle, and is tackling. All the evidence is moving in the right direction. With these projects scale is what is required. You want to be buying in bulk, and these are some pretty bulky projects coming up.”

“There is a limit to what the consumer willing to pay, and the offshore wind industry is rapidly in the market of reducing cost, and that provides the fuel for it to continue growing.”

Keeping the UK economy thriving and maximising the most natural of assets available is key, and Mr den Rooijen sees training as a crucial enabler too.

With the Humber’s bid for the National Wind College revisited, as well as significant private interest, it is hoped his words on this are realised.

“The opportunity is there for Grimsby to establish the long term relationship with operators to make sure it can supply skilled workers and skilled staff,” he said. “The industry needs responsible people who can work quite independently in remote locations.

"There is a tremendous opportunity here to continue to add to the great success story that Grimsby is.”

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