The North Seas Standard: enable growth with wind turbine standardization

The wind sector wants to stop the wind turbine arms race. Instead, we want to focus on deployment and industrialization of world-class offshore power plants. This will result in offshore wind farms which are produced, installed and operated in an economically viable and socially responsible way (i.e. “people, planet and profit proof”).

Until now, unrestricted growth has led to technical challenges due to reduced ability for standardization. These challenges have only been intensified by geopolitical tensions (i.e. high dependency on a limited number of suppliers for certain metals and minerals) and rising costs (i.e. inflation). Business cases could be further strained when electricity prices start to decrease and the cost-side increases even more.

All European countries with a shoreline have ambitious offshore wind targets towards 2030, 2040 and 2050. This requires exponential growth. Standardization is an important factor in enabling upscaling: it simplifies the production process, improves cost efficiency and reduces risks. It also provides investment security and stability in the supply chain, while driving innovation.

Freed from the need to constantly develop larger and larger turbines, producers and supply chain partners could refocus resources on other priorities, including research, development and innovation in areas such as automation of production and maintenance processes, circularity, ecology and cybersecurity. Furthermore, international rules for aviation require planes to stay above 1,000 feet, providing a natural opportunity to discuss the potential crossing of this boundary.

After careful assessment, NedZero proposes to introduce a maximum wind turbine tip height of 1,000 feet combined with a tip clearance of 25 meters for a period of (at least) 10 years. This means that the maximum turbine dimensions are set for at least a decade.

We call it “the North Seas Standard”. Together, participating countries have the opportunity to create a high-volume, high-quality market. This will lead to first class offshore wind farms (OWF) if it is about quality and economics (energy production).

NedZero is convinced that this standard offers a straightforward way of achieving ambitious European climate targets.

This is because the North Seas Standard:

Overall, a common standard will enable all North Sea/European countries to scale up, deliver on their domestic offshore wind targets and capture economies of scale.

To establish this standard, the NWEA makes the following recommendations:

1. Draw up a plan together with the European wind sector.

2. Place this topic on the international agenda, such as in Brussels and at the NSEC. Opting for this standard together with other (North Sea) countries is a condition for success. We can convince other countries through cooperation, and we can reinforce each other where necessary.

3. Start an integrated approach to significantly improve ecological conditions in the North Sea.

Why standardization?
A standard imposed by the European governments, in consultation with the wind sector, offers many advantages:

The North Seas Standard

NedZero proposes the following specifications for the North Seas Standard:

Maximum tip height: 1,000 feet | 305 meters
NedZero has chosen to maintain the existing maximum tip height, provided that the existing tip clearance of 25 meters remains in effect.

Minimum tip clearance: 25 meters
NedZero has chosen to maintain the existing minimum tip clearance of 25 meters.

Minimum installed capacity per foundation: 14 MW
Standardization starts with the search for the most efficient design, based on lifecycle cost to benefit, ecological impact and supply chain, among other factors. To prevent the lower limit from shifting with every wind tender, we also propose setting a fixed lower limit per foundation: 14 MW. This ties in with the technology currently supporting the supply chain and can be installed with current vessels. It prevents excessive pile-driving of monopiles and limits unnecessary disturbance to marine mammals. It is also important in relation to the number of turbine positions (more wind turbines means more positions).

It has been decided not to include an additional minimum rotor diameter limit. This is in order to give the supply chain as much room as possible for innovation and to maintain a healthy business case. The IJVER NRD assumes 15 MW turbines. As a result, we cannot use the current generation of turbines, but it is also desirable not to exclude the current generation in advance. In this way, the further development of existing turbine platforms can start immediately, with all the associated benefits. This gives developers the choice between the current generation of turbines and new generations of up to around 20MW that fall within the standard.


NedZero proposes to set the term at ten years; from today to 2037 (date of operation start). This creates a sufficiently long period, starting with IJVER Alpha and Beta.

The term must be long enough to justify infrastructure investments in particular (installation vessels and ports).


We recommend an evaluation moment in 2028: 10 years before the standard expires. In this way, if necessary, the standard can be adjusted or extended in good time on the basis of new insights. The evaluation takes place on the basis of technological developments, ecology and the international playing field. If changes are made to the standard, suppliers of wind turbines and companies in the logistics chain can then prepare in good time.

It is not possible to adjust or abandon the standard before 2037. This will be detrimental to parties in the sector. Parties must be prevented from getting into trouble in any way as a result of this.

Key success factor: International context
To make standardization work, there are important pre-conditions. These are drivers of success and therefore key success factors. If not properly addressed and implemented, each of these themes could also bring inherent risks.

It is key to have a large group of countries adopt the North Seas Standard. It is in the name. Ultimately, the more countries that participate in this standard, the greater the benefits. That is why NedZero calls on the Dutch government to promote, endorse and disseminate this standard across the NSEC, EU and other international associations. NedZero advocates a widespread introduction of the North Seas Standard in a European context.

In a scenario where only a few or a single country choose to limit the maximum tip height, the country(s) adopting the standard run several risks. It is therefore crucial to apply the North Seas standard within the North Sea countries at the very least. This would remove an important concern of the Dutch wind sector, namely that the Dutch market becomes less attractive due to standardization. This could also happen if the number of countries is very limited. Other risks related to the international context are explained below.

Under-sizing port infrastructure
If this standard is only adopted in, for example, the Netherlands, it carries the risk that larger turbines will continue to be developed for other markets. The Dutch port infrastructure is also used for installation in other markets, such as Germany. If the German market does not participate in standardization, but the Netherlands does, there is a risk of under-dimensioning of port infrastructure, meaning that Dutch ports could no longer be used as a base for installation elsewhere.

Weaker business case
If the standard is applied unilaterally, there is a risk that projects in the Netherlands could have a structurally poorer business case than projects abroad as larger turbines could have a lower levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). This could leave developers in markets that adopted the North Seas Standard with less financial room to invest in other qualitative improvements to a wind farm, or they might decide not to develop in the Netherlands at all.

Our aim is to create a massive market with more innovative and lower priced standardized wind turbines. Succeeding in realizing ambitious goals and lowering the LCOE at the same time.

Production turbine manufacturers
Another question is whether turbine manufacturers will maintain production facilities for smaller turbines for the Dutch market only, when there is no longer any demand for these turbines in other markets. There is therefore a risk of unavailability of suitable turbines for the Dutch market. It also creates uncertainty about whether supply chain partners will want to use scarce over-dimensioned capacity, such as over-dimensioned installation vessels, for the Dutch market, where under-dimensioned turbines are installed. This all makes a large coalition of countries a must for adapting the North Seas Standard.

Key success factor: Ecology
Higher wind turbines and turbines with higher minimum tip clearance are believed to contribute to lower negative ecological impacts (e.g. lower collision risk for birds). Therefore, standardizing and limiting the size of turbines to 1,000 feet could limit the ability of the wind sector to grow within ecological boundaries, if no alternative measures become available.

Restrictions on turbine sizing are largely dictated by ecological considerations. For example, a higher tip clearance and larger rotor diameter (due to a higher maximum tip height) minimize the impact on bird populations.

This gives another reason to have a healthy ecology. It is also required for long-term security of keeping the minimum tip clearance fixed. Furthermore, addressing ecological challenges requires massive holistic action. For example, long-term marine space planning, international collaboration and considering the sum of negative effects on all users of the North Seas. The cost effectiveness of any measures should be taken into account as well. Last but not least, the impact of climate change is also having its effects on marine ecology.

A final note
To keep the wind sector healthy and thus achieve climate and other social goals, the wind sector is strongly in favor of a European standard as proposed. Mitigation of the risks, with regard to international context and ecology, are of crucial importance for the success of this standard, and should therefore form a key part of the package of necessary actions.

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