Meet Muriel van der Hulst

07-26-2023

Windturbines op zee gecombineerd met floating solar
Senior Advisor Sustainable Energy Projects

Muriel van der Hulst is Senior Advisor Sustainable Energy Projects at Ventolines. She works on a number of large, complex projects – such as Windplan Groen and Dronter Energie Opslag, two sizeable projects in Flevoland. Her role is particularly focused on the complex processes of obtaining and complying with permits, and coordinating with the relevant authorities.

Muriel fulfils a management role within the Development department. She has also been a member of the works council since its establishment in 2021.

We asked Muriel to tell us a bit more about how she experiences working at Ventolines.

How did you end up working at Ventolines?

‘As a result of my previous experience, I discovered that versatility and engagement were very important in my work. My first employer provided the opportunity to gain experience in the full development of the required processes for renewable energy projects. This spanned site selection, acquiring permits, financing, contracting and, finally, the construction phase and management of projects. My next position, with a larger employer in the field of offshore wind projects, was less involved in the project development phase. I missed that involvement and wanted it to experience it again.

‘I met Anne de Groot, founder of Ventolines, in 2005, before the start of the Westermeerwind project. At that stage I was still in my first job, involved in onshore wind farm development. Later, I met Allard van der Steege at an international meeting in Hamburg. There was an immediate ‘click’ with both of them. What appealed to me about Ventolines was the shared vision – working on what is really needed to bring about the energy transition and ensuring that sustainable energy supply has value for everyone. I liked the idea of using a range of technologies and, especially, integrating systems within projects, for instance not only generating power but also energy storage. That’s why I wanted to join Ventolines.’

So what exactly is the versatility aspect of your job?

‘For me, versatility means working on different types of technology projects, in which we develop all parts of the project, from A to Z. So I get to work with many different specialists, within a large team. That really appeals to me. For example, Windplan Groen is a project that encompasses eleven separate wind farms and a closed distribution system. A battery energy storage project is also involved. Each project requires its own approach, culminating in obtaining the relevant permit. On the Dronter Energie Opslag project, I am now working with my team to amend the zoning plan. Battery projects are new and innovative, so you soon come up against the issue that clear policy has not yet been drawn up. This sometimes means you have to adjust your approach in order to eventually achieve your goal. This battery project is also relatively large-scale, so spatial zoning integration and choice of location are very important. This requires a lot of coordination with different stakeholders, which I experience as a fascinating aspect of my job.

‘My work mainly consists of investigating the feasibility of projects. This involves obtaining permits (for the ensuing project phases), ensuring compliance with the permits, recording agreements and monitoring the budget and schedule. That means a lot of coordination with the client, the various authorities, other stakeholders, and of course internally with the Ventolines team. The project team is made up of my colleagues and myself. However, in consultation with client, I do also call in other specialists where necessary – such as an ecologist or landscape architect. For both Windplan Groen and Dronter Energie Opslag, I coordinate a Permits work group, in which the client is also represented. My tasks also include drawing up permit documentation. For Windplan Groen, for example, I drafted the water compensation plan for the construction of paved surfaces, working together with the work group and in consultation with the water authority.’

What is your biggest challenge?

‘I like to work in a goal-oriented way. So I know where I’m headed and I’m not easily side-tracked. Getting all the people within a project on board is the biggest challenge. There are always various interests at play, and they can be contradictory. Sometimes you just have to put some issues aside, and introduce new considerations into a project in order to reach agreement. I like to keep the momentum going and usually chair meetings. This gives me more control over the process and I can make sure we take the right steps to reach decisions.’

What do you like most about your job?

‘Dealing with people. On the one hand this involves coaching the development of the next generation, which includes sharing my knowledge and experience. On the other hand, it can mean bridging the differences between the various interests involved in a project. But sometimes it is also wonderful to really zoom in on a particular issue and get deeply involved.’

How do you see your future within Ventolines?

‘I remember exploring all kinds of academic options with my mother. The environment and ecology always attracted me, particularly the aspect of learning to look at a problem from several standpoints. I also knew that I liked working with people. My choice of study involved a combination of social and sustainability disciplines. Having become a mother myself, not so long ago, I see my knowledge and more than 15 years’ experience in the sustainable energy sector as increasingly valuable. Everyone needs electricity and this will continue to be so. The fact that electricity generation is becoming increasingly sustainable makes me feel better about blow-drying my hair!’

What would you like to pass on to people considering a job at Ventolines?

‘At Ventolines, your individual involvement has a big impact on the projects you work on. You get a lot of personal responsibility and you can generally determine your own approach. I feel enormously involved. For example, when I communicate with the government, it feels like I’m working on my own project. I’m very goal-oriented in my work and I don’t hesitate to involve the right people and resources in order to achieve my goals.’

‘My colleagues also work in this way. This suits the challenges we face and the mindset we need to be successful. It also means that there is always an opportunity to seek new paths and to collaborate and develop.’

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