How to successfully deliver 28,000 tons of jackets to Scotland?

Jef Verdickt, Commercial Director



Albert Smulders, Sales & Strategic Director

Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm is set to be the largest offshore wind farm in Scotland. The project presents a whole new set of challenges… and impressive solutions.

This  year,  international steel construction company Smulders passed a landmark 1,500th transition piece and produced their 1,700th overall offshore wind turbine foundation. To put that in perspective, a reasonably sized offshore wind project handles between 50-100 wind turbines. “We have grown enormously in offshore wind over the past 5 years,” says Albert Smulders, Sales and Strategic Director  “…the last two years 80-85% of our turnover was dedicated to offshore wind.”

The organisation is an established market leader in construction, manufacturing, supply and assembly of steel construction – having contributed to over thirty-five offshore wind farms in the past and building their 23rd offshore substation.

With a self-proclaimed dedication to retaining clients and a large share of the market in Europe, it is little wonder they took on the challenge of one of the most time-constrained and considerable offshore wind projects in recent years.

The Beatrice Project

The Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project is currently being installed 13km off the coast of Caithness, where it is set to be Scotland’s largest wind farm. At £2.6bn, the windfarm is also set to be one of the largest ever private investments in Scottish infrastructure. Upon completion in 2019, the site will have capacity of 588MW: enough energy to power up to 450,000 homes.

To generate this much energy, 84 foundations are required, most notably the construction of 28 jackets in a co-ordinated, multinational effort by Smulders. In a ‘tour de force’ collaboration with Smulders’ teams in Poland, Belgium, Netherlands and the UK combining expertise to deliver a new jacket each week even though the production time of one jacket usually totals about 13 weeks.

“The size of these jackets was a first in its kind. They were too big to build in one piece in covered conditions…” says Smulders. The Beatrice Project required 28,000 tons of steel, with individual jackets measuring between 68 and 81 meters high. With a combined weight almost as much as three Eiffel towers, these monumental structures required a radical new approach to the construction process.

“We took the decision to build them in two parts – the top painted part of the jacket in Hoboken, to maintain the high painting quality standards we are used to…. and transporting it to Newcastle to mate it with the locally fabricated bottom parts” says Smulders. Having to forgo the traditional ‘monopile’ foundations, the size of the foundations required and incredible time pressure to provide them required cool and composed heads across our multiple sites.

“To give you an indication of the time pressure for such a project – our Hoboken site can produce one top section of a jacket each week – working at a rate that’s very efficient and very competitive. Beatrice’s installation demands were aiming at 2/3 jackets a week….you can see where the time pressures come from and why our project focused approach was remarkable.” says Smulders.

Building on the success of Beatrice

As the development of licenses and wind project opportunities progress and become reality in North East Coast of US and Asia – Verdickt has ambition to take the lessons of Beatrice international. “We see fantastic possibilities to employ our specific capabilities, know-how and application of offshore wind foundations at these sites.”

The opportunity to develop offshore wind internationally, alongside the experience and ambition evident between Smulders and Verdickt, suggests another project of this scale just around the corner.

“We will keep executing with the same philosophy, in a reliable and durable way, alongside local partners; offering sustainable solutions. It’s not always easy to successfully complete this kind of set up but we will not cease to find more opportunities to demonstrate what we do.” says Verdickt.