JUST over three years ago, I boarded a plane in Copenhagen bound for a place I had never visited and about which I knew next to nothing. I was leaving Denmark, regarded as the home of offshore wind, to come to the UK, now the biggest market in the world for this ever-growing industry. My destination was the Humber.
Following 14 years as an officer in the Danish Navy, I had made a career change by joining DONG Energy, the Danish company that leads the world in offshore wind installations. I had been hired to lead the construction site and commissioning of the £800m Westermost Rough offshore wind farm close to the East Yorkshire coast.
My specific destination was Grimsby, a place that I am now seeing transformed by investments such as the one I have been proud to deliver.
I won’t claim the relocation was easy, but one man made a huge difference – the Danish Honorary Consul for Lincolnshire, Kurt Christiensen, who had left Denmark for the Humber 40 years earlier. He dropped everything for two days to take me around the area. He showed me the local countryside and the lovely places to live. He showed me how the area is moving forward so positively, driven by the industry I had joined.
The people here are so genuine and welcoming and we have made so many friends. As a family, we made a decision to commit to a new life on the Humber. My wife Julie and daughters, Thilde, now 11, and Amalie, nine, joined me as we made our new home on the coast.
It’s a decision we have never once regretted. Our girls go to school in Grimsby and are thriving. We go walking and cycling in the Lincolnshire Wolds; spend the day on the beach at Humberston; and enjoy the many great restaurants on the Cleethorpes seafront. We visit Hull, Lincoln and York for shopping and days out. The combination of a high quality of life and low cost of living is simply unbeatable.
The welcome we have received as a family has extended to my professional life. Being in a region that appreciates you are here makes a world of difference. That outstanding support has enabled us to deliver Westermost Rough in good time – from investment decision to construction completion in just two and a half years. During construction we’ve employed a site-based team of 64. There were just two Danes – me and the Marine Co-ordinator – all the rest were British.
When fully operational, DONG Energy will have 100 people based in Grimsby, responsible for servicing the wind farm to maximise the generation of power over its 25-year lifetime. Those are sustainable jobs for local people who need homes, whose partners need jobs, whose children need schools, and who will use local services.
There are now about 400 people employed in offshore wind operations and maintenance roles in Grimsby alone, with more than 30 transfer vessels operating out of the port, servicing more than 100 operational turbines, with a further 100 under construction.
Westermost Rough is the first wind farm in the world to use the next-generation six megawatt turbine that Siemens will eventually produce from its new facility in Hull. In less than two years, the Humber will be the home of world-class offshore wind manufacturing and assembly operations.
Since joining the Board of the Bondholders marketing organisation that promotes the Humber, I now hear about so many local companies that are winning contracts and creating jobs from offshore wind. For example, Grimsby-based Cofely Fabricom has won a long-term maintenance contract for two offshore wind farms; Hull-based Rix Sea Shuttle has won contracts to provide crew and equipment transfer services; and the Boston Group, based in Beverley, employs and retrains technicians to maintain wind farms across the UK.
But we are still at a relatively early stage in the development of the industry around the Humber. There are much bigger offshore wind farms to be built further out to sea. Pending final investment decisions, DONG Energy plans to develop the Race Bank wind farm off the Lincolnshire coast and the Hornsea Project One wind farm 60 miles from the East Yorkshire coast. The scale is immense – the Hornsea zone is as wide as the distance from Liverpool to Hull.
Today, there are five completed wind farms off the East Coast, from Skegness to Bridlington. By 2020 there is the potential for two gigawatts of power to be generated in the Humber area – producing enough electricity for more than two million homes.
I’m proud to be playing my part in this industry – generating clean and green electricity and contributing to a sustainable energy mix, creating new jobs and long-term careers, and building a brighter future for our children. And, as a Bondholders Board member, I am so pleased to see what this industry is doing to build local pride, bring people together across the Humber, and fulfil the fantastic potential of the under-estimated place that I now call home.
Tue Lippert is Construction Project Manager for the Westermost Rough offshore wind farm and a member of the Board of the Bondholders marketing organisation that promotes the Humber.