The importance of Gemini for Groningen Seaports
Harm Post: ‘It’s having
a huge impact’
So much can change in a short time. A port that was originally conceived as overspill for Rotterdam is now successfully starting afresh as a ‘hub’ for energy. The energy generated by Gemini wind farm is now coming ashore in Groningen’s Eemshaven. What does that mean for Groningen Seaports? CEO Harm Post on the multiple significance of Gemini for the port: ‘We’re making our services as broad as possible.’
At the start of the interview, Harm Post first focuses on the history. In the late 1960s, Groningen Provincial Council decided to develop the Eemshaven project. ‘They wanted to be able to accommodate Rotterdam’s petrochemical industry here. At the time, there was no mention of the construction of the Maasvlaktes, so they had the idea of building a deep-sea port. They thought the industry would follow automatically. But that didn’t happen.’ Everything turned out very differently. In 1973, the first phase of the port was completed, but that was exactly when the oil crisis started. ‘That was a real game changer. Companies became much more careful with large investments.’
They made a virtue of necessity by switching the focus from a port to a hub for energy and data: ‘They built power plants here, but they also built Eemshaven wind farm with 88 turbines, for example. And this is now also home to the large intercontinental energy cables to and from Denmark and Norway. Add to that to the construction of Google’s large data hotel – a surface area of 47 hectares, two floors high – and you can see that the dynamic is massive.’
Clear upward trend
Eemshaven is now seen more and more as an ‘operating base’ for offshore wind energy. ‘The port is in the perfect strategic location for many of the wind farms on the North Sea. In the meantime, 2,500 windmills have been shipped from here. Eleven wind farms use (or used) Eemshaven. And after the turbines have been erected, they still need to be maintained. It’s not without reason that Siemens is building a maintenance centre here. The maintenance employees will soon be dropped off there by helicopter and by ship. In 25 years’ time, the turbines will have to be recycled again, so we really have a long-term strategy here. For the wind farms, but also for Groningen Seaports.’
‘The port is strategically positioned for a large number of wind farms on the
Offshore wind energy is displaying a clear upward trend, according to Post. ‘Make no mistake about it - we have three large traditional plants here. With the three plants in Germany, we’re generating a third of Holland’s electricity. You can’t just replace that production at the drop of a hat. But renewable energy is undeniably on the way up.’
Van Oord’s Aeolus moored in Eemshaven, Gemini’s Groningen home base – during the realisation and soon also during the operations & maintenance phase.
Eemshaven breathes renewable energy. From here, various wind farms in the North Sea are served, but the port itself also produces the necessary wind energy.
According to plan
The contact with Gemini came about quite soon after it became clear that the project would go ahead, 85 kilometres off the coast. ‘The first question you ask a new customer is always: What do you need? In this case, that elicited a multiple answer. First of all, storage and transhipment capacity; the port includes several logistical service providers in this field. We also accommodated 150 people from the Gemini project organisation for two years; we found a great location for them.
Added to that, the support vessels sail from the port. And last but not least, the electricity generated in the wind farm comes on shore here. A location was found for the 380kV land station and then realised in strict compliance with the planning schedule; I’d like to compliment the Gemini organisation for that.’ Groningen Seaports also helped with less visible aspects of the operation: ‘We know this area like the back of our hand and we can also issue advice for permits issued by government organisations, for example. We try to make our services as broad as possible.’
Gemini’s impact on Eemshaven and the surroundings should not be underestimated, says the Groningen Seaports CEO. ‘Hundreds of people worked on the construction of the park. They practically lived here and spent their money here. We know from research that the jobs in the port have a multiplier so they also generate extra jobs outside the port. That factor varies from 1 for SMEs to 4 for ICT. But sectors such as maintenance, security and catering are also benefiting.
‘That’s very important
for Groningen, where work is thin on the ground. Gemini
is having a huge impact.’
That’s very important for Groningen, where work is thin on the ground. Gemini is having a huge impact.’ In fact, offshore wind energy is so important that Groningen’s Noorderpoort College has developed a separate study programme for windmill engineers on intermediate vocational level. ‘There are some maintenance companies that issue work guarantees for the students that start the programme, and it has been a great success for four years now.’
Post adds that Eemshaven is the perfect offshore hub for the northern North Sea. ‘That will soon also apply to the maintenance and any refurbishing. And don’t forget: we’re also investing significantly in the port by building quays, for example, where special vessels can moor and by reinforcing the harbour bottom so that they can work with offshore jack ups. All of that is an explicit part of our proposition.’