MHI-Vestas JV has exclusivity for offshore market – officials

Officials from Mitsubishi and Vestas have emphasised that their offshore joint venture has exclusivity clauses that prevent either parent company from participating in the offshore wind turbine market on their own behalf.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries wind turbine division general manager Jin Kato told Recharge in Frankfurt that all activities to do with the offshore wind turbine business will be incorporated into the joint venture, including existing technology alliance agreements with UK utility SSE.

“MHI has wider agreements with SSE,” says Kato, “but anything to do with wind turbines will go to the joint venture.” MHI has a technology alliance with SSE that included developing its Sea Angel at SSE’s test site in Hunterston and supplying turbines to some of SSE’s projects.

But the MHI-SSE relationship could now provide an entry for the new MHI-Vestas joint venture, which is already actively seeking contracts from UK Round 3 developers.

Jens Tommerup, the CEO of the new – so far unnamed – joint venture says that the company is already engaged in “conversations over actual sales” with several major developers.

He adds that several major players are already involved in the early-stage development of the 8MW V164 turbine that will form the basis of the joint venture, and – in a first for how Vestas develops its products – will be given access to raw data from the turbine prototype when it is installed in the first quarter of next year.

“Early buy-in and engagement from the customer is extremely important in this type of market,” says Tommerup.

Some newspapers have reported that there may be outstanding differences between the two joint venture partners, because MHI is still continuing with the installation of two prototypes of its 7MW Sea Angel. But MHI officials point out that this in no way means that the Sea Angel will be developed into a separate product, let alone commercialised outside of the joint venture.

“What we are developing is the DDT technology, which we think has potential well beyond the wind turbine market,” says an official from MPSE, who adds: “And of course as the agreement states, the partners will look at whether we can integrate the technology into the joint venture at some stage in the future.”

Mitsubishi’s buy-in to the DDT technology – a concept first hatched by Scottish renewable-energy colossus Stephen Salter and later fine-tuned by Edinburgh’s Artemis Intelligent Power that streamlines drive-train architecture by doing away with the gearbox, frequency converter and transformer – is based in large part on its scalability for even larger turbines than are currently being built, MHI officials say.

Vestas officials say the technology is interesting, but emphasise that any attempt to introduce it into the JV’s products would have to be done in a very cautious manner, given the emphasis in the offshore market on proven solutions.