Zeekracht - A Strategy for Masterplanning the North Sea
The urgency of sustainable and secure energy calls for a collective mobilization of intelligence and ambition that exceeds standard piecemeal solutions to climate change. Zeekracht, a masterplan for the North Sea, maps out a massive renewable energy infrastructure engaging all its surrounding countries – and potentially those beyond – in a supra-national effort that will be both immediately exploitable and conducive to decades of coordinated development.
Primary components of the Zeekracht masterplan include an Energy Super-Ring of offshore wind farms – the main infrastructure for energy supply, efficient distribution, and strategic growth; the Production Belt – the on-land industrial and institutional infrastructure supporting manufacturing and research; the Reefs – integrating ecology and industry by stimulating existing marine life alongside wind turbines and other installations; and an International Research Centre – promoting cooperation, innovation and shared scientific development.
Due to its high and consistent wind speeds, shallow waters, and dense surrounding populations with highly developed energy infrastructure and knowledge, the North Sea is arguably the world’s best site for large-scale offshore wind farming. The annual (renewable) energy that could be harvested from the North Sea approaches that currently produced by fossil fuels in the Gulf. With the increasingly desperate need for new sources of energy in the 21st century, the North Sea could – must – become a fulcrum of global energy production.
A masterplan for the North Sea cannot be a fixed prescription. The project is conceived as a reciprocal system, fed and reinforced from the top down in terms of technology, industrial development, and Europe-wide policy; and from the bottom up in terms of local decision-making, popular involvement and support. For such a multi-layered undertaking on a scale as large as the North Sea, the present is an inappropriate limit. Echoing the ethos of renewable energy, potential must drive development.
Unlike the usual planning methods based on least-conflict zoning, the masterplan suggests a multi-dimensional approach based on optimizing potential. The productivity and profitability of offshore wind farms can be enhanced if they synthesize with existing North Sea activities such as shipping and oil and gas extraction – and new programs such as eco stimulation and tourism.
The North Sea countries are uniquely positioned to pursue, promote and benefit from research and development in offshore renewable energies – from wind to wave to tidal to biomass. By pooling resources and intelligence, the North Sea countries can advance these technologies far beyond today’s standards and create a renewable energy infrastructure that places Europe at the forefront of the 21st century’s most critical industry.