Starting in 2019, some 400,000 households will be running on green energy supplied by Norther, set to be Belgium’s largest offshore wind farm. Offshore installation vessel Aeolus underwent a major transformation before installing the very first foundation in the seabed this month.
The installation of the first of a total of 45 foundations marks the start of the Norther offshore wind farm project. The wind farm will be located 23 km from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge and will have a total capacity of 370 MW. The project will therefore actively help Belgium achieve its climate targets in 2020.
As main contractor, Van Oord is responsible for the engineering, procurement, delivery and installation of the 45 foundations for the wind turbines, the offshore high-voltage station and the entire electrical infrastructure, as well as for installing the wind turbines themselves. In addition to the Aeolus, Van Oord will also be deploying its cable-laying vessel Nexus on the project in the next few months.
Van Oord began deploying the Aeolus on offshore wind projects in 2014. The offshore installation vessel has been a valuable and reliable asset ever since, but to keep up with the rapidly changing offshore wind market, it required a major upgrade.
Van Oord consequently decided to boost the vessel’s loading capacity, increase the number of onboard accommodations to 99, widen the vessel, reinforce the deck and add a helicopter deck. The spud poles – the vessel’s ‘feet’, as it were – have also been enlarged. The most critical modification was a new crane with a lifting capacity of 1,600 tonnes. That makes the Aeolus one of the biggest heavy-lift crane vessels in its class and ready to handle the latest generation of foundations and wind turbines.