The wind industry is facing a historic build-out if it is to help make the energy transition a reality. A key player in realising this ambition is offshore wind which is expected to grow more than ten-fold by the end of this decade.
According to the International Energy Agency, global renewable energy capacity will have to expand by three times its current size by 2030 to keep global emissions aligned with the Paris Agreement. In addition, the current energy crisis spurred by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced the world to speed up the renewable energy transition even faster to wean ourselves off Russian oil and gas.
We can make this transformation happen, but it will not come without a holistic and responsible approach. The magnitude and squeezed timeline of the build-out calls for us to create a sustainable and profitable supply chain, and the biggest threat to a viable supply chain is shortening the lifecycle of existing products.
Rapidly introducing new, larger turbines challenges the entire industry’s ability to develop reliable, optimised technology and hinders the establishment of sustainable and robust supply chains.
Excellence before size
Introducing a new turbine platform requires rethinking of the entire value chain. Together with our partners and suppliers, we must develop new processes and tools and train and educate our people to use them in a safe and quality assured manner. We need new and bigger components, and this requires us and our suppliers to invest in new tools, new moulds, new trucks, cranes, and vessels – vessels so large, that they potentially don’t fit into existing harbours. And we need time to learn and build experience, to continuously improve the quality of every module.
Don’t get us wrong, we love the challenge of delivering a brand-new turbine model. It’s exciting. But what we love even more is delivering measurable excellence and affordable high-quality products. Predictable, reliable world-class quality turbines that we can industrialise and localise at a global scale. And the best way of doing that is by allowing each product a longer life cycle.
Let’s focus on deploying the proven technology we already have.
But the overarching challenge right now for the renewables industry is to deliver the growth required to ensure we realise the energy transition in time. To do so, let’s focus on deploying the proven technology we already have, on enabling the development of a sustainable and scalable supply chain and on expanding the infrastructure needed to execute and operate our projects.
It is critical, that our products are backed by supply chain excellence and robust infrastructure. Optimising the complete supply chain calls for a more responsible approach to product development and longer product life cycles. Designing technology with supply chain and infrastructure in mind will result in shorter execution times for projects, allowing us to better scale and support a long-term, resilient and sustainable market.
We are all sharing the same challenges in the industry, and to solve them and be able to deliver the massive build-out, we must pull together as an industry to mature and prepare for scalability across the entire value chain.
We’re at a tipping point right now, and in a few decades, our children will look back at us and either applaud or scold us for the decisions we make today. The clean energy transition is within reach and it’s up to us to realise it and ensure a clean and green future for the next generation.
Felix Henseler is CEO at ZF Wind Power. Dieter Dehoorne is group senior vice president for global procurement at Vestas.