‘Big tech’s’ main role in the energy transition has so far been as a buyer of wind and solar output for the datacentres run by Google, Facebook, Apple and the rest. But as their corporate decarbonisation goals become ever more stretching, the world’s IT and web giants are making it clear they’ve ambitions to play a more hands-on part.
Google said this week it would go all out to secure 24/7 zero-carbon energy supplies for its entire operation by 2030, a ‘moonshot’ ambition that will see it procure huge new amounts of renewable power and look to emerging technologies such as green hydrogen.
It may also consider “new” nuclear options, adding to a momentum behind more flexible, smaller-scale nuclear systems as a potential way to firm-up renewable supplies.
Not to be outdone, fellow tech-giant Microsoft revealed it is mulling the option of siting undersea datacentres at offshore wind farms, after a successful trial or a renewable-powered test facility off Scotland.
Microsoft also announced its datacentres would be getting some of their future renewable power from what would until recently have seemed an unusual source – BP, the oil supermajor that in past months has set a goal to become one of the biggest players in renewable electricity by the end of the decade.
Without vesselsto install them, the next generation of supersized offshore wind turbines are destined to remain nothing more than impressive steel components stranded on a quayside.
Shipping loomed large in Recharge’s coverage this week, as we revealed that the first all-American offshore wind installation vessel (WTIV) – built to meet the requirements of the US Jones Act – will come with a price tag of a cool half a billion dollars.
The shipping industry’s growing interest in serving US offshore wind was underlined by an interview with Louisiana naval architect AK Suda, which claims it’s in talks with project developers over advancing a “low-cost” vessel design that could handle turbines up to 18MW.
And as new entrants circle the sector, veterans of the global offshore wind vessel sector are taking steps to stay ahead of the game. Swire Blue Ocean said it will order at least one more WTIV and upgrade its existing Pacific Osprey and Pacific Orca – stalwarts European installations over the last decade – with new cranes.
If you want to see what a shortage of offshore wind vessels looks like, China currently offers food for thought. Recharge reported how a major turbine OEM named a dearth of ships as the number one factor holding back the installation dash underway in the nation’s seas.
That situation won’t have been helped by the collapse of a crane on a vessel installing foundations for a 500MW project in the South China Sea.
A monster 12GW ‘energy island’ in the middle of the North Sea proposed by the CEO of European network operator TenneT was the subject of one of Recharge’s most-read articles this week.
The ambitious plan to enable offshore wind power-sharing by Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, will be music to the ears of EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who this week pledged to drive the bloc to emissions cuts of at least 55% by the end of the decade – sparking a Bauhaus design revival in the process.
The 55% plan didn’t please everyone – some called for a much steeper goal – but it’s likely to spur TenneT-style clean energy big-thinking across the EU.
Europe’s biggest market for wind at seas, the Brexited UK, was conspicuous by its absence in TenneT’s North Sea masterplan. But happily there is still momentum in Britain’s clean energy push, as shown in a pioneering link-up between Iberdrola’s ScottishPower Renewables and specialists from the gas and electrolysis sectors to supply green H2 to heavy vehicles in Scotland.