By Peter Kelly-Detwiler
April 7, 2015
Despite the well-publicized setbacks of Cape Wind, U.S. offshore wind is beginning to feel a little bit more real with each passing day. In fact, just over a month ago Deepwater Wind announced it had completed the $290 million financing of its proposed 30-MW (five 6MW Alstom Haliade turbines) Block Island windfarm. That makes it official on paper.
But if one were to walk through the fabrication facilities of Alstom in Denmark, it would likely feel even more real: all fifteen of the 241 foot blades have already been completed and are ready for installation. To put that size into perspective, the 150 meter (492 foot) diameter of the rotor would dwarf the Statue of Liberty (at 305 feet). Meanwhile, in Louisiana, Gulf Island Fabrication is working on the five steel jacket foundations that will anchor the turbines to the ocean floor. If all goes to plan, the ‘steel in the water’ foundations will be installed this summer and the project will go live sometime in the fall.
So Deepwater Wind has taken a huge first step. But it represents only one move towards fully exploiting the far offshore deepwater resource, where thousands of megawatts of wind may potentially be harvested. Those opportunities will require even more capital and know-how.
Thus, the announcement today that the experienced and well-capitalized Danish group Dong Energy is buying the rights to over 1,000 megawatts of potential offshore project rights from RES Americas may be just what the industry may need to help it take the next step. These wind turbines would be located about 55 miles off the Massachusetts coast.
When it comes to offshore wind, Dong is a serious and seasoned player, and the biggest name in the game. It has its fingerprints on many of the largest offshore undertakings in the world. The company has completed major projects in Denmark, Germany, and the U.K., with 2,500 MW installed as of the end of 2014. It has developed more offshore wind than anybody else – about a third of the global total to date. Its goal is to increase that number by more than two-and-a half times 2020.
If approved by the U.S. Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, this would represent Dong’s first step outside of Europe. The move from vision to reality almost always takes a while. And as the Cape Wind experience has shown, it can be fraught with difficulties and mis-steps. But if anybody can pull off an undertaking of this magnitude, Dong is certainly a very strong candidate.
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