Energy from the North Sea

OMA - Masterplan North Sea (Copyright OMA)
OMA - Masterplan North Sea (Copyright OMA)

In discussions about wind energy, I always have to think of the study MVRDV once did on the subject. They had a horrifying conclusion: if we in the Netherlands would want to get all their energy from windmills, we would need so much windmills that the wind would slowed down to the extent that the wind most of the time would move at all.

I have always found that conclusion very cynical and demotivating. The study was carried out more than five years ago. I think that there is a chance that with the current knowledge and technology the study would have ended on a more positive note.

This week OMA presented an energy masterplan for the North Sea. The plan is the result of a study carried out for an environmental agency called ‘Natuur en Milieu’, Nature and Milieu. In the view of OMA the Netherlands are capable of taking a leading role in the development of the North Sea. Especially when taking into account the Dutch talent for collectivity and historical relation to the sea.

I am not so sure about that. With two decades of neoliberal politics and a multicultural crisis the Netherlands seems to have lost that talent for collectivity. To make things worse: compared to Germany, Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia, Holland is far from leading in the implementation of sustainable energy.

What should be included in the picture is the fact that the Netherlands still is a gas-exporting country. The state-owned gas industry is investing heavily in an infrastructure that, in the future, should turn Holland into the ‘gas-roundabout’ of Europe. A pipeline to Russia and factories that process liquid gas are currently being build.

“Shallow water, high wind speeds, a high population density and a well developed knowledge industry makes the North Sea area the most probable site in the world for large scale wind mill parks”, OMA writes in their Dutch press release, here translated into English: “The potential capacity for the winning of sustainable energy approaches that of the oil production in the Gulf. […] The North Sea as sustainable battery of Europe.”

The masterplan by OMA consists of a number of elements:

a. The Superring, the ring pipe for energy transport;
b. The Production Belt, the R&D and production zone around the North Sea;
c. The Riffs, the strengthening of maritime ecological zones;
d. The International Research Centre, to initiate and stimulate innovation and collaboration;
e. The wind parks, the cornerstones of the development of the North Sea.

In their design OMA has tried to project the wind parks at strategic locations. Wind parks could for instance shield zones with ecological value. OMA also suggests to transform the infrastructure of the gas and oil industry: “Wind energy could be stored as compressed air in underground cavities. Obsolete oil platforms could function as gas station for clean shipping on hydrogen or wind. Small gas fields could be exploited as hybrid energy cells and be connected to the Superring. Oil platforms could become focal points for recreation and culture and could turn into the basis of the construction and maintenance on sea. The vicinity of the Superring channels and stimulates all these developments.”

The Dutch part of the North Sea is about the size of the main land of the Netherlands. Including the development on sea, the Netherlands becomes twice as big. In their study, MVRDV didn’t think of that.

Also this week the Dutch government approved the building of the first big wind park just off the shore from the city of Hoek van Holland, near Rotterdam. The decision could be regarded as the starting point of the realization of OMA’s North Sea energy masterplan. Who knows.


OMA - Masterplan North Sea (Copyright OMA)
OMA - Masterplan North Sea (Copyright OMA) (click-2-enlarge)


OMA - Masterplan North Sea (Copyright OMA)
OMA - Masterplan North Sea (Copyright OMA) (click-2-enlarge)


OMA - Masterplan North Sea (Copyright OMA)
OMA - Masterplan North Sea (Copyright OMA) (click-2-enlarge)

Related: North Sea Airport; Holland Milland; Tulip, by Innovationplatform 1; Tulip, by Innovationplatform 2 

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