RWE Renewables is striving to obtain a substantial share of the offshore wind market in the US and key East Asian countries such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, as the German utility is pushing to expand beyond it European core markets, the company’s offshore wind head said.
“We want to hold sizable positions in every market we operate in to realise economies of scale,” Sven Utermöhlen, Chief Operating Officer Wind Offshore Global of RWE Renewables, told Recharge.
Out of the utility’s 22GW global project development pipeline, more than 7GW are in offshore wind, a volume that could increase as RWE Renewables is also considering taking part in more tenders for wind at sea. The company has earmarked €5bn ($6.05bn) net in renewable energy spending by the end of 2022 to add to its operating renewable portfolio of 13GW net.
East Asian seas
Plans for an expansion in East Asian seas are already well underway.
“In the Asia-Pacific region, we see good growth opportunities for offshore wind, for example in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. These countries have plans to considerably increase the role of offshore wind energy in the electricity production - and we want to be part of this development.”
RWE already has opened offices in Tokyo, Taipei and Seoul to drive its offshore wind business in the wider Asia-Pacific region.
“Currently, we are working together on a feasibility study for an offshore project off the coast of Yurihonjo City in Akita Prefecture,” Utermöhlen said.
“We firmly expect the Japanese offshore wind industry to gain momentum, as the country not only has excellent wind resources, but also sees offshore wind energy as a key factor in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables.”
The company early last year had signed a first cooperation agreement with Kyuden Mirai Energy to jointly develop offshore wind projects in Japan.
The country last month had formally launched its first offshore wind tender, for fixed-bottom projects off Akita and Chiba prefectures, as part of an attempt to get 10GW of wind projects up and running off Japan by 2030.
In Taiwan, Asia’s biggest offshore wind market outside mainland China, RWE has partnered with Asia Cement Corporation to further develop the Chu Feng offshore wind project, and intends to participate in the next grid allocation round in the island nation.
With a planned installed capacity of up to 448MW, it will be located off the northwest coast of Taiwan near Hsinchu City, in the wind-rich Taiwan Strait.
RWE Renewables’s other big offshore expansion area outside Europe is the US, where the company already is a major onshore wind, PV and storage player.
“Based on our established US business and team and our European offshore experience it is a natural strategic step for us to expand into offshore wind technology in the US. The US coastline offers globally one of the best untapped potential for offshore wind,” Utermöhlen marveled, adding that RWE is focusing on getting access to a number of attractive lease areas.
So far, the company’s efforts to establish itself in the growing US offshore wind market alongside other European majors such as Orsted or Iberdrola have been modest, though.
RWE Renewables together with the University of Maine and a subsidiary of Mitsubishi is developing the 12MW Aqua Ventus 1 floating demonstrator project, as part of its efforts to push floating wind projects world-wide.
“The purpose of the demonstration project is to further evaluate the floating technology, monitor environmental factors and develop best practices for offshore wind to coexist with traditional marine activities,” Utermöhlen explained.
“We are relying on floating offshore wind, because we believe that this technology has great potential, especially for countries with deeper coastal waters, such as, for example, the US or Japan.“
Aqua Ventus vs AquaVentus
The US floating project is not to be confused with a massive plan wind power-to-hydrogen plan around the German North Sea island of Heligoland, which also has the name AquaVentus (but without a space between Aqua and Ventus as in the US floating project).
“The AquaVentus initiative aims to use electricity from offshore wind farms to operate floating electrolysers at an industrial scale with the island Heligoland as a central hub,” Utermöhlen said.
“Our wind farms on site – Nordsee Ost, Amrumbank West and in the future Kaskasi – are ideal for this. The plans of the initiative envisage setting up electrolysis units in the North Sea with a total capacity of 10 gigawatts by 2035, enough to produce 1 million metric tons of green hydrogen.”
RWE is part of the AquaVentus initiative, which, however is still in an early development phase.
How seriously the utility is taking (the German) AquaVentus and other hydrogen plans is shown by the fact that the utility already employs 250 people that work on 30 projects in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.