Wind energy in the Netherlands, 50 Nordex wind turbines for Vattenfall wind farm

Nordex has successfully completed the first part of the Dutch 300 MW wind power project Wieringermeer for its customer Vattenfall: The last of 50 N117/3600 wind turbines were connected to the grid in August. The location of the project – not to mention the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – posed particular challenges. Construction of the next phase, with another 32 N117/3600 wind turbines, is already under way.

Technical, topographic and ecological challenges successfully overcome

Located 60 kilometres north of Amsterdam, the site boasts excellent wind conditions. However, Wieringermeer is a polder, i.e. a diked area of reclaimed land seven metres below sea level. Measuring 300 km2 in size, the area is crisscrossed by canals and also includes a protected forest, making it a particular challenge in terms of logistics and construction. As there wasn’t much in terms of suitable storage space available, the Nordex Group delivered the towers, nacelles, drive trains and hubs as and when they were required. The wind turbines came in seven different nacelle configurations. It was therefore also important to deliver the right wind turbine to the appropriate location.

Due to the low bearing capacity of the ground, the foundations had to be piled and also raised by 1.5 metres to prevent flooding. In addition, rare bird breeding restrictions posed limits on access and operation to some wind turbines and the number of cranes allowed on the construction site.

Bespoke processes helped achieve success

The specific requirements of this project forced Nordex Group to modify its processes. For example, a token-based permitting system ensured that it was possible to safely assign multiple construction teams reliably to specific wind turbines. This approach avoided work scope conflicts and maximised efficiency.

In addition, new functions such as a technical project manager (TPM) were implemented to act as an interface with engineering and other technical departments. On top of this, quality and documentation managers, as well a strong HSE team, were deployed on site to meet Vattenfall’s own high standards. CEO José Luis Blanco explains: “We attach key importance to flexibility. These adjustments show that we understand our customers’ requirements and the challenges they face. Some of these new processes are already being incorporated successfully in other major utility scale projects.”

Project uninterrupted by COVID-19

At the peak of the activities, eight large cranes and over 120 persons were working on the construction site at any one time. To ensure that this large number of people were able to work safely on site despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nordex Group recruited a Dutch paramedic in addition to implementing general travel restrictions and hygiene precautions. Their task was to check the temperature of all staff at the site each day before they commenced their duties and to provide medical advice if anyone developed any symptoms. These precautions provided the employees with a certain degree of protection from the heightened risk of infection through their work, and the associated contact with many people, and ultimately proved to be successful: at no time was it necessary to interrupt work on the project due to the pandemic.

Nordex has installed more than 29 GW of wind energy capacity in over 40 markets and in 2019 generated revenues of EUR 3.3 billion. The company currently employs a workforce of approx. 7,900. The joint manufacturing capacity includes factories in Germany, Spain, Brazil, the United States, India, Argentina and Mexico. The product portfolio is focused on onshore turbines in the 2.4 to 5.X MW class, which are tailor-made for the market requirements in countries with limited space and regions with limited grid capacity.