PhD position Offshore Wind Energy & Marine spatial planning (1.0 FTE)


Faculty of Spatial Sciences


University of Groningen

The Faculty of Spatial Sciences consists of approximately 100 members of staff, 100 PhD students and around 1000 undergraduate students. We focus on high quality teaching and research in the fields of social and economic geography, demography, and spatial planning. With a single collective research theme of 'towards Wellbeing, Innovation and Spatial Transformation' (tWIST), it is our mission to produce research which is world leading, distinctive, and policy-relevant. With two Bachelor and eight Master programmes, we provide a wide range of courses within the fields of geography and spatial sciences.

The PhD researcher will be based in the Department of Planning and Environment, which currently has 23 members of staff and 25 PhD candidates. Its research is centered on institutional design for purposeful interventions within the human environment. The Department offers a vibrant academic environment with an international staff and extensive experience in working within international research projects. The Department actively pursues societally relevant research, as is also expressed in research targeting energy transition and spatial planning to which the PhD researcher is to contribute.

Job description

The Department of Planning and Environment of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen (RUG) has a PhD position on the topic of spatial energy planning.

The PhD researcher will be one of the PhD researchers engaged in the NWO PhD@Sea programme “Facilitating Large Scale Offshore Wind Energy Production by Developing Offshore Storage and Transport Alternatives”. The programme engages in an interdisciplinary approach to examine the development of offshore energy storage in conjunction with large-scale offshore wind deployment, and alternative transport options and their feasibility for implementation in the Dutch North Sea. The programme hosts four PhD projects on “Multiscale physics-based models of novel pumped-hydro offshore storage technology (RUG Faculty of Science & Engineering), “Optimal sizing and operation of offshore infrastructure for wind farms coupled to hydrogen production, storage and transport” (University of Utrecht), “New Offshore Energy Storage and Transport Options: Legal Obstacles and Solutions” (RUG Faculty of Law) and finally, “Marine Spatial Planning, Environmental Impact and Locational Choice” (RUG Faculty of Spatial Sciences, this vacancy). A total of 11 societal partners are involved, next to the Universities of Groningen and Utrecht.

The programme targets the North Sea, which is among the busiest seas in the world and is subject to the largest projected deployment of offshore wind energy. This combination creates serious burdens on energy infrastructure and has similarly large spatial and environmental impacts. Improved storage offshore and smart deployment of infrastructure can assist in mitigating such barriers. The PhD project on “Marine spatial planning, environmental impact and locational choice” aims at identifying institutional barriers and innovations needed for marine spatial planning and associated (environmental) procedures for allocating offshore storage and transportation of hydrogen. The PhD researcher will work in collaboration with and under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Christian Zuidema and Dr. Ferry Van Kann. Central tasks within the project include:

- Conduct research activities including: literature analysis, policy analysis, stakeholder interviews, surveys, focus-groups and international comparative research. In doing so you will specifically focus on identifying and analyzing:
o possible and likely spatial and environmental impacts of offshore energy storage and related transport infrastructure
o existing marine spatial plans and associated (environmental) procedures
o institutional barriers for offshore energy storage and transport vis-à-vis offshore wind deployment
o conflict resolution strategies currently employed or developed across the North Sea for coping with competing claims for sea use
- Write academic papers to be published in international peer-reviewed journals, including joined publications within the project
- Contribute to jointly organised sessions with societal stakeholders and involved consortium members from the business sector, addressing interdisciplinary cross-cutting questions
- Contribute to the development of outputs on knowledge utilisation, including a joined report on technical and policy recommendations.

The PhD researcher will also be a visiting researcher for 6 months at TNO with the aim to jointly examine criteria for the spatial allocation of offshore storage and conflict resolution strategies regarding competing sea uses as employed across countries in the North Sea.


We are looking for a candidate with:

- a (Research) Master’s degree in a field of study relevant to the topic of (marine) spatial planning and energy transition (spatial planning, geography, environmental management and policy, public administration, or another related disciplines with proven affinity with spatial planning), to be completed before 1 September 2020
- excellent study results
- previous experience or proven interest in the research field of marine spatial planning, sustainability and/or energy
- fluency in English (reading, writing, speaking), knowledge of Dutch or willingness to learn Dutch
- strong conceptual thinking with the desire and capacity to relate theoretical topics to practical challenges and solutions
- good qualitative research skills with expertise in conducting in-depth interviews, experience with qualitative data analysis software is desirable
- good communication skills and the capacity to be a team player
- strong motivation, good communicative skills, proactive and independent work.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

- a salary of € 2,395 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month in the last year, based on a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
- a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% year-end bonus
- a position for four years; you will get a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years; prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next three years is to be expected
- we aim at a start date of 1 September 2020.

The appointment of the PhD researcher is with the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen. As such, the PhD researcher will be admitted to the Graduate School of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences, and a PhD training programme is part of the agreement.

Job Application

You may apply for this position until 16 July 2020 23.59h / before 17 July 00.00h by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website). Please merge all your application documents in one single PDF file under the Letter of Motivation attachment.

The following documents should be included:
- a motivation letter (1 page in English)
- a curriculum vitae (including date and place of birth, full list research activities and output clearly showing your expertise in relevant areas, key study results)
- the contact details of two referees whom we may contact for a recommendation
- if a Master diploma is expected to be acquired after the application, please send information on when this is expected
- unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Prof. Christian Zuidema (about the research role and academic content)

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 220241

Extra informatie kan worden verkregen via een van de volgende links:

For more information on the University of Groningen For more information on the Faculty of Spatial Sciences

Digital application form