After the first year in which more wind power plant was turning in the waters off Asia than those in Europe, 2023 has quickly begun to look like a time of reckoning in the sector’s historic heartland as it gears up industrialisation plans in cross-winds created by a shape-shifting regional energy crisis and global economic outlook fraught with risks.
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The scale of the ambition in Europe for offshore wind is only growing – as it must for the EU to reach its target of having at least 300GW of turbines turning at sea by 2050. Evidence at both country and company level came this week with the UK sealing 8GW in leases with developers including BP, RWE and TotalEnergies to build projects that will one day power a quarter of British homes, and developer Orsted revealed to Recharge it had applied for permits off Sweden that would take its portfolio there to a massive 18GW – enough to cover more than half of the Nordic country’s total electricity consumption.
Construction of the sprawling supply chain taking shape in the North Sea littoral nations to build these tens of gigawatts of plant moved ahead in step, with Scotland anointing its first two green freeports – coastal industrial hubs that will be construction and service bases for the 26GW fleet being developed out of last year’s market-making ScotWind auction. Industry welcomed the news but cautioned reaching such a lofty build-out target would require the “involvement and support of multiple Scottish ports” not just green freeports.
Supply chain issues looming the world over were brought into sharp relief in Germany, where wind industry bodies in a joint statement warned “production capacities and skilled workers [that] have so far been lacking to a substantial extent” could undermine Berlin’s plans for 30GW of operating offshore wind plant by 2030, and 70GW by 2045.
Europe’s fast-approaching – floating wind-powered – future was in the headlines in Recharge too, led by two reports on the Italian sector: one, Eni-owned Plenitude and Irish offshore renewables developer Simply Blue announcing plans to build out a giga-scale pipeline of arrays off Italy, and two, national grid operator Terna greenlighting connection points for over 7GW of deepwater projects being developed by Hexicon.
Green is the new black?
The green-lit Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) conference was supercharged in the days before doors opened by the declaration by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber – president-designate of COP28 and CEO of Abu Dhabi oil group Adnoc – to the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum that the world is “way off track” in meeting the climate goals set in Paris in 2015.
The choice of a petro-chieftain to lead a conference devoted in name to anti-oil climate action – and one flagged by some high-profile climate commentators as “no longer fit for purpose” given the scant progress international governments have made in accelerating the shift away for fossil fuels – drew fire from some quarters. But EU climate chief Frans Timmermans defended the appointmenton the grounds that Al Jaber could swing global oil & gas’ “tough cookies” into helping speed up the energy transition.
Among the deals sealed at ADSW was one that could change the face on the energy sector in the Caspian inside a decade, Abu Dhabi clean energy outfit Masdar agreeing with Azerbaijan’s government to develop some 4GW of wind, solar and offshore wind-powered hydrogen plants in its country.
Nordex on an updraft
German wind turbine maker Nordex this week surprised many by leapfrogging long-time European onshore rivals Enercon and Vestas into top spot in its domestic league table – a win credited to 4-5MW models “really suiting many different locations” by Nordex’s vice president Karsten Brüggemann in an exclusive interview with Recharge.
The Rostock-based OEM managed globally to sufficiently increase the price of its turbines last year to offset an overall order level drop and “strong order intake momentum” in the second half of 2022 identified by CEO José Luis Blanco showed straight away this week with a contract for what is set to be the largest wind farm in the Baltic states, Enefit Green’s 255MW Sopi-Tootsi in Estonia.