When a wind turbine starts spinning and creating power, that electricity has to be moved to the thousands of homes and businesses that need it.
The skill involved in connecting the turbine and the cables delivering that power is essential, and the experts behind V&SH Offshore Solutions are responsible for the necessary HV operations regarding that final connection.
“We perform the testing and termination works, which is the final connection between turbine and cable, making sure that the turbine can basically deliver its power to the substation,” said Gerard Lak, managing director of V&SH Offshore Solutions. “We do the connections in the substation as well, together with the export cable, which is the final cable going to the land. We provide technical expertise, training, necessary equipment, and labor, and we do a test on that final connection making sure it will perform as intended.”
In order to achieve that goal, V&SH provides its services with the mentality of a contractor combined with the flexibility of a large global workforce, according to Lak.
“It is a skill that you need to be trained for,” he said. “You need to be trained for it, because obviously you’re making the final connection of a wind turbine, and, currently, that goes up to 66,000 volts, and this is expected to increase in the coming years, so you don’t want to make a mistake with that. More importantly, there will be no power transferred in case of a bad connection.”
Recently, V&SH Offshore became part of the WTS Energy Group. With the addition of WTS Energy’s assets and global presence, V&SH is even better suited for the task of HV cable connection globally and its goal of contributing to the global electrification.
“It’s increasing our flexibility — a lot,” he said. “WTS was already active globally for 20 years. It has 18 offices worldwide. They are well-equipped to deliver people for worldwide services. The market currently asks for a service provision model, so you provide labor on a day rate. It makes us far more flexible. We had a skilled pool of labor within our former company, and now that skill pool is simply about 10 times larger as WTS has all the connections around the world. We basically count all those people that are within the WTS database as our possible employees.”
WTS Energy brings offshore experience rooted in oil and gas; however, the company has made a lot of inroads into renewable energy, according to Lak, which is part of what made the company a good fit with V&SH Offshore. WTS Energy brings a global presence, flexibility, and a larger workforce capable of creating local content and a sustainable solution for onshore and offshore wind, as well as solar.
“They already have created local content in southern Africa, for instance, with a turbine manufacturer where we train locals to operate and maintain an onshore wind farm,” he said.
With WTS Energy’s added workforce, V&SH is in a unique position to maximize its background as a contractor, according to Lak.
“We are in this for the long-term,” he said. “We want to think with our clients in order to optimize their process. If we can find optimization so our client reduces its offshore time in regards to safety, risks, and cost, then that’s what we’re here for. That’s why we think early involvement with our clients is the key to joint success and the possible start of a long-term relation.”
As part of that commitment to its clients, WTS has developed an app called Toolbox Suite that Lak said can add a lot of value to the company’s services.
“We provide our work procedure, which is put in the app, for instance, and we can provide all as-built data within 24 to 48 hours,” he said. “It makes sure our clients have all of the reports in order to start energizing their project and start delivering power as soon as possible. Obviously, for subsidy reasons, that’s an important one. It’s all real-time based. It’s open source, so our client has direct access. It’s a transparent system. That’s the way we work.”
V&SH doesn’t want to just make its clients successful; it also wants to achieve that goal by making the world a greener place, according to Lak.
“We want to simply help our clients by making the environment better,” he said.
“Obviously, we are in this to make money as well, because otherwise it would not be a sustainable business. But that’s it. With WTS, we now have the possibility of creating local content as well. Take your market, as an example — the U.S. I think by now we all believe that’s going to be huge.”
To that end, V&SH already has opened an office in Houston, Texas, and is looking for another location that will be central to future U.S. offshore projects as well, according to Lak.
“We want to put up an office and do the same as we do best, here in Europe, which is train people, train local, in order to make a sustainable local business,” he said. “That means that we’re going to put some experienced European guys there and will bring our 10-plus years of experience to the U.S. Obviously, no doubt within the U.S., you have some very experienced onshore high-voltage people. We just want to make sure that everybody that works for us and goes offshore for us is trained and skilled, making sure we deliver quality and service. The plan is to set up our own training school to basically pick the best and start working.”
Setting up a training center is just part of how V&SH continues to share its expertise with the ever-evolving wind market, according to Lak.
“The evolving market has basically made us the specialists we are today,” he said. “We have been at the forefront since the start and have been providing our knowledge to all parties over the last several years, whether it has been as contractors, cable manufacturers, or suppliers. Furthermore, it has helped us in building the experience we have with making in excess of 10,000 HV joints and over 90,000 FO connections, and our workforce of HV jointers has been involved with the vast majority of them.”
The Evolution of V&SH
Before V&SH merged with WTS Energy, it began as part of VolkerWessels, one of the largest construction companies in The Netherlands, according to Lak.
VolkerWessels’ specialty was in directional drilling, gas lines, and high-voltage networks. It also had a subsea division formerly known as VBMS, a joint venture with Boskalis. When that was sold to Boskalis around 2016, the remaining parts included high-voltage specialists and mechanics.
“That was made into a testing and termination team for high-voltage works offshore, making the final connection to the wind turbines for the array cables,” Lak said. “Array cables are the cables between the turbines, which is a specialty, and it needs highly skilled labor. All our staff (including office staff) has experience going offshore, and, therefore, we are safe to say that we know what offshore is, and we know the risks involved. We understand that every day that we can save our client having the need to go offshore is one day with safety risks reduced and costs reduced. We constantly strive for that in order to optimize that for our clients.”
Closely Involved with Projects
Since the time table for getting a wind farm up and running can be a years-long process, Lak emphasized that it’s important for V&SH Offshore to be involved as close to the beginning of a project as possible.
“Within offshore wind, it can basically take a few years from first tender to project execution. These projects go from the development stage where they need rough quotes for testing and termination works, to the contractor finally being selected possibly some years later. There are separate rounds of tenders. To us, it’s all up to the contractor. We like to get involved as early as possible so we can share our technical knowledge and see what we can do in order to reduce costs, risk, optimize procedures and train people, and make the costs as reliable as possible.”
With so many countries setting renewable energy goals for 2050 and onward, Lak said he expects there to be a lot more work to come for V&SH.
“I see Asia as being a growing market, which is not settled, but it’s there,” he said. “I see the States, obviously, as the next new big thing, when it comes to offshore wind. I see V&SH Offshore in that aspect, having offices in all regions with a local workforce that requires training and on our payroll. That means next to Europe, people in Taiwan, people in the States. We’re looking at onshore wind in Africa; we’re looking at solar in Africa. If we can help the renewable energy sector and energize this world, that will definitely help. We’re not bound to the Netherlands and Germany anymore. Our aim is simply to become the best jointing company in the world.”