Update: GE rethinks offshore wind strategy as orders stay away

US industrial giant GE is reviewing its offshore wind-turbine development plans in the face of slower-than-expected market growth.

The company is considering laying off about 40 employees in Norway as it scales-back its offshore operations there, a GE spokeswoman confirms to Recharge, although no final decision has yet been taken.

The spokeswoman adds that plans for a manufacturing facility in the UK are also on hold until the company can see a pipeline of orders to justify the investment.

“We don’t see the order intake that we were expecting, and so we are adjusting our activities to the market,” she says.

GE is carrying out a wider rethink of its strategy in the offshore sector.

While the spokeswoman says the 4.1-113 4MW direct-drive offshore turbine developed by GE in Norway is “an excellent product for projects in shallower waters”, for deeper-water sites the company’s emphasis has shifted to a planned 10-15MW machine.

Development of the huge turbine, backed with funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and using superconducting magnets, was announced in August.

“We are by no means stepping out of offshore,” the spokeswoman says. “With the 4.1MW we have an excellent product, but for the deeper water sites which will be most common in the future, we really need a game-changing technology that can make a big impact on the market,” she adds.

GE is continuing with plans to erect the first 4.1MW prototype in Gothenberg harbour by the end of the year. “We will test and validate the unit and we are talking to partners and customers about the turbine. We still believe in this product.”

GE, a major global supplier of onshore wind turbines, leapt into the offshore space with its acquisition in 2009 of Norway’s ScanWind, a developer of direct-drive machines.

As recently as last year, GE was talking about investing $100m in its Norwegian operation and setting up an offshore wind R&D centre in Oslo.

However a number of GE’s direct competitors already have offshore turbines in the 5-6MW range ready, or close to ready, to offer to the market.

Ben Backwell, London

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