Global offshore wind power pacesetter Orsted has placed the first commercial order for GE Renewable Energy's record-setting Haliade-X turbine, signing a preferred supplier deal with the OEM to build two in-development US Atlantic projects around the 12MW machine.

The agreement will see GE deliver a total of 100 units for the Danish developer's 120MW Skipjack off Maryland, slated for switch-on in 2022, and its 1.1GW Ocean Wind off New Jersey, scheduled for commissioning two years later.

Components for the Haliade-Xs will be manufactured at GE’s Saint-Nazaire and Cherbourg factories in France, starting in late-2021, before being shipped across for final assembly in yards on the US eastern seaboard.

“I'm really proud of our [Haliade-X] team for having earned the confidence of Orsted, the industry leader, for the responsibility to take on [delivery of the turbines] at their first two projects in the US,” John Lavelle, CEO of GE Renewable Energy’s offshore wind business unit, told Recharge. “To us that means a lot.

“Orsted is a very capable group focused on renewable energy and has a long due diligence process for all the technology they buy – [this order] proves our team has shown them the value [of this machine].”

The Haliade-X’s record-setting 220-metre-diameter rotor will capture wind from a 38,000-square-metre swept area to turn a direct-drive and permanent-magnet-generator transmission system with a 63% gross capacity factor, which, by GE’s calculations, will translate to $35-50m more revenue per unit over the life of a wind farm compared to the 10MW turbines currently being sold by MHI Vestas and SiemensGamesa.

Martin Neubert, CEO of Orsted’s offshore wind unit, said: “We look forward to introducing this next generation offshore wind turbine to the market.

“For decades, Orsted has pioneered the introduction of new technology and new suppliers which has been fundamental to drive down the cost of electricity, and today offshore wind is a competitive source of homegrown clean energy that can help countries and states achieve their climate targets while creating long-lasting economic activity.”

Neubert tells Recharge the developer “did its homework” before moving ahead with the Haliade-X order for Skipjack and Ocean Wind.

“We have very much leveraged the experience we have had on launching new technology in the past – whether on the turbine side as with Siemens Gamesa and MHI Vestas [with which Orsted had cooperative agreements] or other of technologies – so that we were comfortable with the design of the product through a very detailed technology review over an extended period of time, comfortable with GE as a turbine OEM, and comfortable with our commercial contractual protection, to mitigate any risks.”

“The whole package for these [Haliade-Xs] we feel very confident of.”

Neubert underlines that key to the deal was “finding the right projects with the right timelines”, with the 120MW Skipjack “synchnonising very well with GE’s ramp-up in serial production in 2022” and affording Orsted a chance to fine-tune assembly and installation methods on a smaller-scale project before moving on to the 1.1GW Ocean Wind mega-development.

“It’s great we will have smaller project to work on, with ten turbines, before going to Ocean Wind, which will be around 100 turbines. This is very handy for us and GE,” he said.

The relationship-building with GE on Block Island, Neubert added, “has also played along well here”.

With the Orsted order, the Haliade-X, which is about to start prototype-testing in the Port of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, will be shifted into serial production, with GE “well on [its] way in planning with suppliers”, according to Lavelle.

“Plans are on track. We have been working closely with our suppliers that worked on the prototype. And also with Orsted.”

Orsted, which took over the US’s only operational offshore wind farm, 30MW Block Island, when it acquired Deepwater Wind last year, has been awarded acreage off Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Connecticut, which is expected to result in almost 3GW of plant turning by 2024.

While Lavelle acknowledges the need for a “broad and diverse supplier base” in the US, the Skipjack and Ocean Wind projects alone do not provide “a self-sustaining market volumes that will be viable for years on end”.

“You look at your [manufacturing] capacity from a global perspective,” he states. “So, we will continue to look at that going forward in the US. The US market is gaining momentum; we want to support it, whichever [US east coast] state we are talking about.”

Lavelle said GE was “following Orsted’s lead” in deciding on a US yard for the pre-installation turbine assembly, and was “still working through the logistical issue” of whether the Haliade-Xs would be installed by a US-flagged construction vessel or would use a European unit with feeder barges to shuttle the turbines out to the project site.

Orsted said in May it planned to locate the Skipjack staging area at a port facility near Baltimore, as part of a $200m investment in the state of Maryland.

GE Renewable Energy CEO Jérôme Pécresse added in a statement: “Offshore wind is a high-growth segment for our company, and like Orsted, we are enthusiastic about the potential of offshore wind, both in the US and globally.”

Liz Burdock, CEO of US advocacy body the Business Network for Offshore Wind, said: “The first-time use of this new technology on US projects will push the US industry forward and drive the market toward using larger turbines all over the world, and larger turbines mean lower electricity costs for taxpayers and ratepayers.”

In May, Swedish utility Vattenfall announced it would deploy Haliade-Xs on its projects in the North and Baltic Seas but stopped short of anointing GE Renewable Energy with preferred supplier status. The giant turbine has also been mooted for the 720MW Asa Branca project off Brazil and the OEM recently unveiled plans to build a dedicated Haliade-X factory in China, to manufacture the machine for Asia-Pacific.

The growth of the global offshore wind market continues to confound conservative industry analysts, with the International Renewable Energy Agency last month doubling its forecasts for 2050, when it now expects more than 1,000GW will be installed and turning around the world.

· Updates with quotes from Orsted offshore wind CEO Martin Neubert and BNOW CEO Liz Burdock.