2014: Offshore technology advances

The largest technology steps this year will be in offshore infrastructure.

This should be the year when we can announce significant improvements to both electrical and civil infrastructure.

In turbine technology, it will probably be a year of refinement, as new machines announced in 2013 are tested and validated. I also foresee major developments in ancillary services, grid integration and storage.

I expect the political aspects on our key offshore markets to be clarified in 2014.

Last year was one of uncertainty. The German energy reform will affect wind and PV substantially; the election essentially put things on standby for most of the year, and even now the impacts are still being analysed. In the UK, conflicting political statements created uncertainty. Fortunately, in both countries matters are firming up now.

On the positive side, onshore wind is moving towards direct competitiveness, and this will hugely improve its market penetration.

I expect a smaller version of the 2012 wind boom in the US, obviously subject to the production tax credit situation.

Due to the enforcement of retroactive changes to projects in some Southern European countries, these markets are expected to stagnate for years to come, as investor confidence has disappeared.

The price of natural gas is unlikely to crash in Europe the way it has in the US — which raises a scenario in which wind replaces gas, although that will be heavily influenced by policy changes.

Overcapacity and grid-connection issues will dampen the Chinese wind market, but the rest of Asia will keep expanding due to increasing energy demand, in contrast to the OECD countries, where growth in demand will stay low.

We see huge competition for projects throughout the year, because there will be fewer developments and a greater vessel capacity. Market size will be more or less the same as 2013 as large projects are completed and connected to the grid.

Henrik Stiesdal is chief technology officer at Siemens Wind Power and a member of Recharge’s Thought Leaders Club

This piece was published in The Recharge World in 2014 supplement produced for the Holmenkollen Thought Leaders Summit