Northland mulls southeastern options in US offshore wind

IN DEPTH | Canada’s Northland Power believes its experience in delivering European offshore wind can help it add value in the US, writes Karl-Erik Stromsta

Canada’s Northland Power continues to evaluate its options for entering the increasingly competitive US offshore wind market, including looking to the southeastern US, Mike Crawley, executive vice president for development, tells Recharge.

Toronto-based Northland, in the final commissioning stages at its 600MW Gemini offshore project in the Dutch North Sea, is “actively following” the emergence of New England’s offshore market, and is among nine developers to have qualified to participate next month in an auction for a zone off the coast of North Carolina.

The temperature has been rising in the US offshore market, culminating with Statoil’s $42.5m winning bid in December for a large zone off the southern coast of New York’s Long Island – five times the previous record bid for a US offshore wind development area.  

Northland would like to find a way into the northeastern US market, but “we don’t bring a willingness to write a huge cheque for a development site”, Crawley says.

“What we do bring is experience building, constructing and developing offshore wind under budget and ahead of schedule,” he says, referring to the 150-turbine Gemini project, which is now generating significant revenues for Northland ahead of its final commissioning this summer.

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“In terms of any developer looking for a partner who can help reduce the risk, give them greater assurance of their project getting into operation, and help to lock down their expected return on those projects, I think we add value,” Crawley says.

“We’d prefer to come on board prior to construction, prior to financing,” he adds.  

Northland sees “really good prospects” for offshore wind in the northeastern US, Crawley says, citing a convergence of factors including high regional power prices and a large wave of scheduled power-plant retirements.

In the southeast, where Northland may take part in the upcoming auction off North Carolina, “the opportunity in our view is really tied to the pace of the retirement and decommissioning of coal-fired generators”, he says.

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This spring Massachusetts will hold its first offshore power auction, with zones controlled by Deepwater Wind, Dong Energy, and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners in the running.

Deepwater Wind recently scored a power-purchase agreement with New York for its 90MW South Fork project, and other zones off New York may be opened up over the next few years.

In addition to Gemini, the largest offshore wind farm built to date in the North Sea, Northland is also building its 332MW Nordsee One project, and plans to bid its Nordsee Two and Three projects into Germany’s upcoming offshore auction.

Northland, an independent renewables developer and generator whose shares are worth C$4.3bn ($3.3bn) on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is also developing offshore wind sites in Taiwan.