‘Sustainable vision helps to bring brilliant people on board.’
Parkwind is one of the first companies Korys has invested in. It’s no wonder, considering the close relation between renewable energy and our 3P philosophy. Parkwind and Korys share a great deal more: entrepreneurship, flexibility and integrity. It was high time for a chat with co-CEO François Van Leeuw.
Wind energy is one of many areas that goes hand in hand with Korys. ‘Our shareholders, Korys, Colruyt Group and PMV, have been with us since the very beginning,’ says François Van Leeuw, the co-CEO at Parkwind. ‘We steadfastly believe that wind energy can position itself as an alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. From day one, the bow of our boat was turned towards the sea. In times when licences for wind farms on the land are being so strongly challenged, offshore wind farms are the way to go. In concrete terms, we develop and maintain wind farms in the sea. From the first technical drawing to making reservations for the steel and manning the maintenance boats … Give us a piece of sea and we will find a solution.’
No instruction manual, just common sense and courage
Technically, such an offshore operation is a massive feat. The construction is complex, and you still need to transport the electricity you generate back to the mainland. Despite these obstacles, Parkwind pioneered wind energy: ‘In those early years, we knew the techniques commonly used in the oil and gas industries. But, unfortunately, there wasn’t an instruction manual on how to build a wind farm at sea. (Laughs) By doing it ourselves, we learnt how to make an experimental technology profitable, driven by entrepreneurship, healthy common sense and a good dose of courage.’
Three wind parks = one nuclear power station
In the meantime, the company that was once an adventurous little row boat in choppy seas has grown into a solid tanker with a commanding position. With Belwind, Northwind and Nobelwind, Parkwind has established three operational wind farms off the Belgian coast. 178 enormous wind turbines produce an electrical capacity of 552 megawatts, the equivalent of a small nuclear power station.
The company has the wind in its sails: the workforce has grown from thirty to more than a hundred employees. Parkwind has found a strategic partner for this growth process in Korys: ‘Wind energy is a capital-intensive business. Banks and investors give our projects a firm foundation. But Korys is more than a financial partner. They offer added value in four well-defined areas.
Parkwind founds in Korys a strategic partner for growth
- ‘In terms of vision, we are on the same wavelength as our shareholders. Korys’ DNA is atypical. As an investment company, they invest for the long term, with a clear goal in mind: making an impact via renewable energy. The Korys team helps us to draw the strategic lines. From Vincent Vliebergh and his team to chairperson (also head of the family) Jef Colruyt, everyone wholeheartedly supports the sustainable and profitable 3P philosophy.’
- This clear vision creates incredible enthusiasm in talented professionals. On one hand, we have succeeded in bringing brilliant – often young – people on board. On the other hand, it awakens the social engagement and the autonomy, as well as motivation for the existing team.
- ‘Parkwind benefits from operational freedom. But Korys lets the wind of inspiration blow through our organisation. The intention is for citizens to invest in our projects, an idea from chairperson Jef Colruyt. Korys takes collaboration to a higher level. There are different active workgroups, concentrating on our investment approach outside Belgium, accountancy reports, and ever so many other areas. In short, our organization has increased its operational professionalism.’
- ‘Last but not least, as a portfolio company, we are part of the Korys network. This brings us in contact with other pioneers in the energy sector. Examples include the Swedish company Greenbyte, whose software helps us monitor wind farms. By sharing knowledge, we strengthen each other. Korys is the glue holding this ecosystem together.’
‘Renewable energy’ is one of the three ecosystems that Korys invests in. ‘We invest in infrastructure that encourages renewable energy. Such as offshore wind farms (like Parkwind) and onshore wind turbines and solar parks. At the same time, we participate in technology that supports the energy sector,’ explains Vincent Vliebergh, member of the energy team.
Parkwind was the first investment in renewable energy in the history of Korys. From then on, the energy company hasn’t stopped growing up: ‘A completely new industry opened up in the early years. On the coastline, offshore wind farms are popping up like mushrooms. This global market reaches from Taiwan to America. And Europe is at its heart. Parkwind is certainly riding on the spirit of the times, and has succeeded in attaining a place at the top of the world in this niche. This is why they’ve landed everywhere from German to Irish waters.’
In this international expansion, Korys has remained loyal to its social values: ‘Parkwind is a relatively small-scale player, which makes a difference in terms of their humanity, entrepreneurship and flexibility. Together, we use an industrial logic. The starting point: a cost-effective way to create sustainable energy.’