Business in Wind – a unique Dutch company with big ambitions

When I interviewed Wim Robbertsen, managing director of Dutch company Business in Wind, in 2021, he was confident: “I don’t want Business in Wind to grow into a large company! Proud of the unique character of his company and the close cooperation with his staff and (long-term) partners, he feared this would change with growth. Now, less than three years later, I am standing with Wim on a construction site where the shape of the foundation for a new building tells me a different story. What has changed?

Sabine Lankhorst

Barneveld-based Business in Wind is best known as the company to turn to with challenging projects for the decommissioning and supply of used wind turbines. A sign in Wim’s current office sums up Business in Wind’s motto in one sentence: ‘It can be done’. And this motto has taken Business in Wind to many special places, as far away as Ascension Island. In almost all of those special places, Wim himself was there, carrying out the work with his team and partners, some of whom he has worked with for years.

But recently, however, it became clear that Wim wants to expand with Business in Wind after all. The construction of a brand new building with storage and workshops with a total area of 4,500m² is undisputed proof of this. Time for me to travel to Barneveld! In his current office on the Hanzeweg at the industry estate Harselaar in Barneveld, overlooking the location of the new building along the A1, Wim tells his story.

Turning point

Wim affirms: “Indeed, it has always been my firm belief that I do not wish to grow too much with my company. However, the annual Dutch WindDays event in June 2022 marked a turning point. I was told several times that day: ‘it’s just not possible that you’re not going to grow, you just have to think how to control this growth!’ That’s when the seed was planted. Followed by several moments that emphasized this again, I drew my conclusion.”

That this intended growth can actually become a reality is evidenced by market demand. Wim explains: “In the first few years we mainly sold turbines and delivered them to the customer. They then did the rest themselves. However, there is increasing demand for used spare parts and we are also increasingly doing turbine overhauls ourselves. Now we control the entire chain, from turbine removal to operational turbine supply, anywhere in the world. Even more important is that this allows us to differentiate ourselves, that we are not just the wind turbine ‘demolisher’.”

Circularity Ladder

Business in Wind prefers to look at the first R in the circularity, or R ladder, of Reused, Refurbished and Recycled. “Use what the turbine is designed for first, and if that’s not possible, then we’ll take out parts (Refurbishing). In many places they look at the last R first, which is Recycling. For us, that’s really the last step, then we’ve already examined the feasibility of steps 1 and 2. This is how we try to distinguish ourselves,” Wim explains.

New premises to support growth

To serve that whole chain, more space is needed. And Business in Wind has found that just a few dozen meters away from its current location. The new building of no less than 4,500m² provides space for a large workshop for overhauling wind turbines, storage for gearboxes, generators and spare parts, and four layers of office space. In addition, Business in Wind is renting an adjacent space for additional storage.

When the building is completed next year, no one will doubt which business the company is in, or of tenant TeSuCon, with whom Business in Wind now also shares the current premises. Indeed, a wind turbine nacelle on a tower, a total height of 28 meters, will prominently adorn the entrance. The nacelle will house an Evacuator descent system for wind turbines by TeSuCon. To complete the picture, the nacelle will be able to rotate. Moreover, a wind turbine blade will be incorporated in the side facade of the building.

This profile is extended to the interior. In a playful way, turbine components will be incorporated into the interior. Think of a hub as a counter, a call box made of a root end of a wind turbine blade, and a kitchen made of a container. Wim explains that he believes it is important for a company in reused wind turbines to also implement as much of this as possible within its own business. For example, the building will have four reused 20-ton cranes, with a total lifting capacity of 80 tons. Another nice detail: a meeting room will be furnished in a way that demonstrates that Business in Wind sits around the table with stakeholders throughout the chain. Under the motto “From the Zuidas (Financial district in Amsterdam) to the farmer,” visitors will soon be able to choose which conference table they would like to hold their meeting at.

Visualisation of new building

With sustainability in mind

But it doesn’t stop there for Wim. The building will soon meet the BREAAM criteria, the Dutch certification method for a sustainably built environment. The building will house a 3.80-meter-deep storage basement with a constant temperature and humidity, solar panels on the roof, and heat pumps inside. In addition, solar panels above the windows of the office twill also act as shade panels. It is an intensive process to meet all the requirements of the BREAAM criteria, but it is worth the effort, states Wim: “I want to lead the way but I also think we have a role model function. For example, we were recently ISO certified at group level by DNV. This shows that you we all our processes in order and that exudes confidence.”

People and experience

With company growth also automatically comes growth in terms of personnel. The future premises will offer space for 40 persons. With his network and longtime experience, Wim has already been able to add a number of professionals to his team to manage the various business areas, including Derck van Ommeren who already had his own spare parts business. Since April 1, he has been responsible for the Spare Parts unit within Business in Wind. Since one year Teunis van den Brink has been working at Business in Wind. He previously had his own gearbox overhaul business and will now lead the refurbishment and workshop unit. Herman Reemsts is in charge of demolition – the demolition of concrete towers – unit. The company will need more people in the near future. “What is important is that people have the same DNA”, Wim says, “We believe in a working environment where everyone should feel comfortable enough to express their opinions, and where you are able to think a little out-of-the-box.”

Future role

For someone who likes to be outside, aren’t you afraid that soon you will only be doing desk work? Wim: “I can see a future role for me where I will become more of a mentor while others manage the daily businesses. This way I can transfer my knowledge and experience. My aspiration is to make myself expendable.

I still want to be able to do everything we do outside. This is important’, continues Wim, ‘When I am outside, I look at how we do things and whether we can improve activities, for example, by investing in certain equipment. It gives me the opportunity to pass on knowledge to people, but also learn from my colleagues in the field.”

Maintaining the company’s uniqueness

Wim’s solution-oriented and innovative qualities, which have already brought Business in Wind this far, will continue to be the distinguishing feature for the company. In between managing the newbuild, Wim still finds plenty of room to engage in special projects. For example, Business in Wind is working on a project in Antarctica, where three wind turbines are to make way for two new ones. Another project is on the English Channel Island of Sark, where there is a wish to build wind turbines. With no real harbor, 10 meters of tidal range, where transportation on the island consists only of tractors and bicycles, and moreover, the only access is through a tunnel, you have to be inventive to get a job like this done.

In addition to dismantling wind turbines on land, there is also increasing interest from offshore companies. They knock on Business in Wind’s door for advice on how to remove offshore wind turbines as (cost) efficiently as possible in the future.

In addition, Wim is thinking about the scalability of wooden towers for wind turbines. He has been approached for this by Stora Enso, a Swedish supplier of solid wood products, including laminated veneer lumber (LVL). Stora Enso has partnered with the also Swedish company Modvion, which uses LVL to produce towers for wind turbines. Stora Enzo has a large sized production forest capable of producing te equivalent of 12 towers per hour.

A major repowering development is now taking place in Germany. Over the next few years, thousands of Enercon wind turbines on concrete towers are to make way for modern models with higher output here. “If we remove a concrete tower we look for an alternative. We can buy a steel mast. If you look at the whole lifecycle assessment, a wooden tower could also be quite interesting. Wood can resist fatigue very well and wood is also said to withstand fire better. We found that there are quite a few companies that are open to that idea, even if the price is still a bit higher than steel. We could look at a used turbine to see if it works,” Wim says.

Concrete tower demolition robot and blade cutter

Innovative ideas are not restricted to projects outside the company. Business in Wind is currently developing a demolition robot that can be placed on a concrete tower, nibbling itself as a matter of speaking down, thus remove the concrete tower in a week. The company is also looking into a mobile sawing unit that fits into a 20ft container that will also include a water tank to filter water. This way, when a wind turbine is dismantled, the blades can be cut immediately on site and therefore transported more efficiently. “We want to responsibly and controlled cut the blades into pieces on site so that either Blade-Made or Waterstudio can use them or they can be easily transported,” Wim explains.

Blade-Made in Rotterdam is known, among other things, for playground elements made of wind turbine blades. However, they are also in the process of creating sound barriers made of wind turbine blades. For each kilometer of sound barrier, 200 blades can be processed. Waterstudio from Delft, specialized in floating structures/buildings, is pioneering with wind turbine blades as floats.

“We will continue to stand out and focus on special projects,” Wim concludes our conversation.

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