The US offshore wind sector may be on the brink of a multi-gigawatt build-out, but importing components from Europe is not sustainable in the long-term, according to the boss of the most advanced large-scale US offshore wind project, the delayed 800MW Vineyard Wind 1.
“We will not succeed in the long run if we end up transporting components primarily manufactured in Europe to the US. That will not drive the growth that we need,” said Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, a 50/50 joint venture between Iberdrola-owned Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, in a “fireside chat” at the US Offshore Wind 2020 virtual conference.
Pedersen said that Vineyard Wind “took a leap of faith in thinking that we could transplant a lot of the learnings — and actually a lot of the price points — from Europe to the US and deliver that in an early-stage project”. The project has signed long-term contracts to deliver its first 400MW of power at $74/MWh and the second 400MW for $65/MWh, and will use 84 MHI Vestas V164-9.5MW turbines imported from Europe.
Pedersen argued that local manufacturing will be needed to bring costs down further.
A handful of European offshore suppliers are considering building manufacturing facilities on the US East Coast to meet demand — including Siemens Gamesa, which is considering building a $200m blade plant in Virginia — but none have yet made a final investment decision.
At the same time, US companies have expressed interest in entering the emerging sector, but now no new manufacturing facilities on the east coast have so far been announced.
“We’re definitely seeing great interest from US-based companies and I think that is exactly what this industry needs,” said Pedersen.
“We need to see the mating of European experience and American companies with complementary skill-sets — but maybe not the experience in offshore wind — joining up so that we don’t have to go through the same learning curve of bringing American companies up to speed or bringing European companies up to speed on how to work in the US.
“A big challenge with the US is, because we all speak the language we have the notion that it’s similar to what we have seen in Europe, but it’s such a different way of working. The US is a very different place to work than the EU and I think if everybody has to go through the learning curve it will take too long.
“So I hope we will see some joint ventures or partnering — or whatever the form will be — between experienced offshore wind companies and strong US-based companies in the near future.”
Part of the problem of attracting suppliers to the US Northeast, where most of the offshore projects are due to be built, has been a lack of port infrastructure, he explained.
“The US Northeast has the particular challenge that there is not really a marine infrastructure suited for this industry. I think it’s a big challenge for all of us to get some ports developed — it is a marine construction industry, we are highly dependent on ports.
“And, of course, that’s a big barrier for everyone, not only for the developers who are putting the projects together but also for the suppliers who are trying to move some of their capabilities here. So that is a structural challenge that we, the states and the supply chain need to overcome in the next few years.”
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