Proud of steel plates with holes. The windbreaker will make a difference in dust nuisance from Tata Steel!

Article in ‘Noordhollands Dagblad’ written by Pascal van Dongen – April 14, 2024
On the SAB factory site in IJsselstein, Utrecht, large steel plates 1.25 millimeters thick are being pressed at various angles. Not for facade cladding or construction, but for Tata Steel in Velsen-Noord. Here in IJsselstein, the new windbreaker for the steel factory is being manufactured.

You might not be able to imagine it well. A group of men stands interested around a coated piece of metal. Holes about three centimeters in diameter have been punched into the metal. The plates are five meters long and have a nice, gray coating. Bram van de Kaa, project manager at Tata Steel, looks almost lovingly at the piece of steel. “With this, we should be able to significantly reduce the dust nuisance for the surroundings,” says the creator of the windbreaker.

The steel plates are folded into a special shape at SAB-profiel (a division of Tata Steel Netherlands) in IJsselstein. SAB also made the facade panels for the AZ stadium in Alkmaar and the profile plates for the airports in Dubai and Doha International Airport in Qatar.

Bram van de Kaa, Tata Steel (r) looks with Frank de Vos of SAB-profiel at the sheets of the windbreaker

Looking at the panels for the windbreaker from the side, they appear to have a so-called sheet piling profile. The ‘folded’ plates, about five thousand pieces, are stacked and then transported to Uitgeest. There they are painted. “Eleven different shades of gray are used to suggest a coastal scene on the screen.” The Beverwijk artists’ collective Spatzuiver will finally complete the screen with beach scenes. But that will happen later.

The windbreaker will be installed around the raw material storage area, on Reyndersweg towards the Noordpier. Wind turbines also stand along this road. Another part will be placed along the Kolenveldweg, or between the Averijhaven and the mountains of coal and ores.

The windbreaker will be approximately eighteen meters high, about nine hundred meters long, and will reduce the wind speed over this area, according to Tata Steel. The screen reduces the wind’s grip on the material and less dust is blown around. In addition to the windscreen, Tata is also working on other improvements in raw material logistics to further reduce the blowing of dust. Expectations for the windbreaker are high. Tata Steel intends to reduce the deposition of dust in the immediate vicinity by 65 percent with the screen.

Local residents are skeptical about the arrival of the screen. Hans Dellevoet from the Wijk aan Zee Village Council previously told this newspaper that as far as he is concerned, the windscreen is not needed. They would prefer a canopy because they fear that the dust will simply blow over this structure. They also think that the windbreaker will become a rusty fence in a few years.

Tata Steel, through a spokesperson, states that part of the green steel plan involves covering the ores. “We have also applied for a subsidy from the ministry for this. We are already building a windscreen, but like local residents and action groups from the area, we are also working towards covering the raw materials we use. We do not want to cover coal, as we will no longer use it after completing the green steel plan.”

Impression of the windbreaker

Project leader Van de Kaa does not share the fear that the dust nuisance will persist. “Due to the shape of the profiles and the holes, the wind is deflected. Virtual wind tunnel studies show that a lot of dust is held back. Otherwise, we would not have continued with this.” The project leader is also optimistic about rust on the windbreaker. The plates are extra well coated, and this coating is resistant to the harsh sea wind.

The mega-fence was initially supposed to be one kilometer long. A section has now been removed to give bats space at the height of the wind turbines. “Because the windscreen follows the contours of the coastline, they may fly along the screen where wind turbines also stand. This combination increases the risk of them ending up in the wind turbine.” To protect other animals, such as toads, a special tarp is placed against the screen.

Trucks with freshly pressed profile plates are currently driving back and forth to Uitgeest to get the color coating. Tata Steel hopes to complete the construction of the windbreaker by mid-year.