First graduate in Minor Offshore Wind in the Netherlands

Offshore WIND was present when in February this year graduate Bram Zijlstra received his degree in Mechanical Engineering specialising in offshore wind. This was the first specific offshore wind graduation on higher education level.

Bram Zijlstra (22) studied mechanical engineering at the NHL Hogeschool in Leeuwarden, in the North of the Netherlands. By 2012, after having completed the first 3 years it was time to choose a specialist subject in which to graduate.

This was just around the same time when a specialisation in Offshore Wind at higher education level was launched in the Netherlands, an initiative of the MCN Kenniscentrum Wind op Zee, a consortium in which several companies and research centres are working together to promote the interest in offshore wind amongst students. The initial idea was to offer a full masters study but to date it is available as specialism.

Bram: “I was fascinated by wind turbines, how they work and the materials that are used for building them. They are not just steel structures but use different materials such as composites for the blades. My interest was in particular drawn to offshore wind turbines because of their size and the logistical challenges that come with installing them at sea, and doing so in a cost-effective and efficient way.”

He didn’t have to think hard on what to choose for his specialism. Together with around 10 other students he started this specialism which was split up into 2 blocks of 6 months. In the first 6 months Bram would attend classes twice a week, combining these with the more general mechanical engineering classes. Also in these first 6 months he would work in a group doing research on a specific offshore wind related activity, finding out what is involved. His group got in touch with Pontis Engineering and together with this company they worked on what is involved in the manufacturing and transportation of turbine components.

During those first 6 months they would also be looking for a graduate internship at a relevant company. Bram went to look for one himself and got in contact with Dutch engineering company KCI BV. The company had a position available for a cast node application study.

The last 6 months were spent at KCI doing research on whether cast steel nodes, instead of welding the seams, on jacket foundations would be cost efficient when produced in big numbers. The use of cast steel is quite unique to foundation structures for the offshore wind industry. Bram enjoyed his time at KCI very much and received good training and support from the company in working towards his graduation.

In February 2013 he became the first, and at that time, the only person to graduate. It took Bram 2 months to find a new job and he has now been working for the Dutch company Irmato Engineering Groningen BV (previously known as Nieuwhof). Amongst many other engineering services Irmato also provides services to the offshore wind industry. They design and calculate components that are used for transportation of turbine components such as turbine blades. At the moment they are working on solutions for a 81m blade.

Bram is working in a different area but he has expressed his desire to move to the offshore wind related activities within the company when the time is right. Bram: “My passion lies in offshore wind and I look forward to building up more experience in this industry.”

When asked what message he would like to send out to younger students who might be considering taking up a career in offshore wind, Bram convincingly replied: “The offshore wind industry is still young and in full development. Smart and innovative ideas are and will be needed!”

Has he considered continuing doing research rather than starting work in the industry he replied that he wants to gain experience first and find out where he can learn more. And who knows, perhaps in a few years he might reconsider research?

Sabine Lankhorst