US Wind has named offshore wind industry pioneer Jeffrey Grybowski as its new CEO, a move that provides the majority Italian-owned developer with fresh leadership and a prominent voice as it seeks to accelerate development of a 1.5GW lease area off the state of Maryland coast.
“This company had a strategic vision for offshore wind in the US long before others in Europe made the jump to this market,” said Grybowski.
“We will build on that vision and together with strong financial backing from Apollo Funds, we will make US Wind a major player in the offshore wind space, as a nimble and entrepreneurial company that knows how to execute complex projects in the US.”
In August, New York-based Apollo Funds took a $265m equity stake in US Wind, a unit of Renexia, which is the renewables arm of Chieti-based Toto Holding Group.
As “strategic partner,” Apollo told Recharge that it will finance development and construction costs of US Wind’s MarWin project, whose 269MW first phase is several years behind schedule without a clear timeline for completion due to federal permitting delays and stakeholder concerns over its likely use of much larger, latest generation turbines.
US Wind in 2014 paid a then-record $8.7m to secure commercial development rights in two areas – since merged – in federal waters east of Ocean City. In 2017, Maryland awarded the first MarWin stage a 20-year contract that the developer values at $3.3bn for offshore wind energy credits (ORECs) at $131.94/MWh – the highest price off-take for a large-scale wind farm along the east coast.
After becoming CEO of Deepwater Wind in 2012, Grybowski played a pivotal role in the development and construction of America’s first offshore wind farm - the five-turbine, 30MW Block Island in Rhode Island state waters – and was the nascent industry’s public face for much of last decade.
At that time, offshore wind as an sector was struggling to progress amid multiple setbacks suffered by the 468MW Cape Wind project in Massachusetts which ultimately failed.
Grybowski was adept at using his political connections – he was a former Rhode Island governor’s chief-of-staff – and rapport with the media to help build public support for siting a much smaller array off the coast of the nation’s smallest state to demonstrate the technology was viable in the US.
With critical backing from the federal government, present Governor Gina Raimondo, and hedge fund owner DE Shaw, Deepwater overcame financing, permitting and regulatory obstacles, absence of a domestic supply chain, and strident opposition from some business, commercial fishing, and other interests to bring the landmark project online in December 2016.
Since then, the industry has obtained commitments from mid-Atlantic and northeastern states to procure about 29GW of offshore wind capacity through 2035.
Under Grybowski, Deepwater also won other federal offshore lease auctions. That track record did not go unnoticed. Denmark’s Orsted with ambitious plans of its own in the US offshore wind space, acquired Deepwater and its attractive pipeline of projects for $510m in 2018 - making it the industry leader here overnight.
Grybowski, who was named co-CEO of Orsted US Offshore Wind, left the company in July 2019 to start what he said was a new energy venture.