The newspapers are full of discussions about the energy transition and there is a push for seats in The Hague and Europe around the climate portfolio.
But most people agree on one thing. Big steps need to be taken in the energy transition. And some companies are taking big steps. In this article, we pay extra attention to the Dutch offshore wind sector, where the Netherlands is an important supplier in a large part in the chain.
These include IQIP and SIF. Atradius supports these indirect exports with the green cover, the investment policy specifically designed to support Dutch exports in the energy transition and strengthen their global position. Read more about SIF's transaction below.
SIF is a manufacturer of monopile foundation solutions for the offshore wind industry, among other things. These are used as foundations for wind turbines. The company was founded in 1948 and has around 600 employees, about half of whom are permanent employees.
Fons van Lith, responsible for Investor Relations and Corporate Affairs explains: "Everything offshore in the field of offshore wind needs a foundation. SIF makes the so-called monopile foundations that are by far the most commonly used (about 80% of all foundations). Even though wind turbines are all standard, each foundation must be developed uniquely. Here we take into account the soil conditions, the type of wave action, but also the specific location of a turbine in a wind farm. Depending on these characteristics, a foundation solution is put together, where foundations can vary in length, diameter, and thickness of steel."
SIF has two facilities, one in Roermond and one at the Maasvlakte in Rotterdam. In Roermond, complete foundations are no longer produced, but mainly hulls, cones and so-called transition pieces are manufactured. The loose parts are then transported to Rotterdam to complete the monopiles. In addition, the company not only produces, but also provides design engineering for the foundations, and logistical services where necessary. Meanwhile, they are working hard to build a new factory on the Maasvlakte. This will be the world's largest production site for monopiles. In 2024 a trial run will take place and from January 2025 the factory should be fully operational.
Van Lith: "The offshore wind market is developing very quickly. In 2000, the capacity of a turbine was around 3MW, but today it is quickly 10-12MW. The turbines have to deliver more and more capacity and are therefore getting bigger and bigger. That means the foundations have to grow with them as well. Where currently the diameter is often 8-9 meters, the new plant will soon be able to produce up to a diameter of 11 meters. This new plant will roughly double SIF's total capacity. The number of monopiles we will produce will remain about the same, but they will therefore be about twice as heavy, and that is necessary for enormously large wind turbines that are now being developed."
A solid financing plan has been established for the expansion with the new plant. About a third of the €328 million investment consists of upfront payments from customers who have an interest in starting up the new plant. In addition to shares being issued in which one of the customers is also investing heavily, and the company is using €40 million in operational leases and an investment loan of €81 million is available. Rabobank has assumed the role of agent, but the loan is provided in cooperation with other banks and Invest-NL. Atradius Dutch State Business insures this investment loan under green cover. This means that the risk for the financiers decreases significantly. This also makes the financing more attractive.
SIF can use the green cover because the buyers of the monopiles are often international players who make an important contribution to the energy transition. Van Lith: "Until recently, contractors such as van Oord or Boskalis were our main customers. Nowadays we see that the end users such as Eneco, Shell or Vattenfal develop themselves, and therefore come directly to us. Few companies specialize in monopile production, but SIF's focus is on wind farms in Europe and the east coast of the US. Otherwise, transporting the huge monopiles is too costly. We do work with a licensing agreement where, for example, a Korean manufacturer uses our expertise."
Investments are relatively expensive due to high interest rates and material costs and must be recovered in a short period of time. Now the green cover does offer some advantage in getting a lower interest rate because there is security for the financiers. Van Lith adds: "Because developments are so rapid in offshore wind, there are mainly challenges in the supply chain. Because even though we at SIF can manufacture larger monopiles, other companies must also be able to transport and place them. So it does take into account other work. For example, developments sometimes go so fast that we actually have to reduce the payback period of the investment from three to four years."
Despite the challenges, SIF sees the future as bright. The order book for the coming year is already full and 2025 is as good as full. There are also a fair number of orders already booked for 2026 and many requests for the period after that.