Block Island wind farm

Offshore Wind is Making Big Waves

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — When it comes to renewable energy, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s making lots of new friends quickly. We’re talking of course, about offshore wind. While once resisted as too expensive and too unsightly, the technology has finally found its sea legs and is now really making a splash.

Europe is, of course, where most of the activity has been. It started with Vindeby, the world’s first offshore wind farm, off the Danish coast. Vindeby, which was commissioned in 1991, has eleven turbines, with a combined capacity of 4.95 MW.

That’s significantly less than the output of just one of the thirty-two 8 MW turbines that Danish-based Dong Energy is installing at the Burbo Bank Extension  wind farm off the English west coast near Liverpool. Dong, which also operates Vindeby, currently has 3,000 MW of offshore wind online, and plans to grow that to 6,500 MW by 2020. Their 21 existing facilities are located off the coasts of Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. Dong, which both builds and operates these wind farms, is one of a growing number of players in this market.

Better known perhaps, are the turbine manufacturers. Vestas, the Danish turbine maker, has now formed a joint venture with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan, to compete with Siemens, the longstanding frontrunner. General Electric is now getting into the game as well, along with a number of Chinese manufacturers.

Here are some reasons why offshore wind makes sense. First, it overcomes most of the not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) concerns about visual pollution and noise, though there has been resistance from certain upscale seaside communities, notably the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, and Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to block a wind farm off the coast of Scotland, near a golf course he owns. (Trump lost, Cape Wind is apparently “dead in the water.”)

Big Oil Companies Turn Their Sights to Offshore Wind

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Despite what we might expect to see soon, in the form of furious efforts on the part of a handful of politicians to reverse the inevitable, the tide has already turned against the century-old dominance of fossil fuels. Perhaps there is no better proof of this than the fact that a number of major oil and gas companies are now making significant investments in renewable energy.

As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, a consortium led by Royal Dutch Shell won a bid to build and run a portion of what is expected to be the world’s largest offshore wind project. The massive Borssele wind project will be located in the North Sea off the Netherlands coast. The Shell portion alone will produce enough electricity to power a million homes at a rate of $56.95 per megawatt hour.

This compares favorably with even the cheapest forms of conventional energy generation. According to the most recent Lazard report on the Levelized Cost of Energy, only the very cheapest natural gas combined cycle plants, which produced power in the range of $48-78 could compete with this. The Borssele installation, in fact, falls at the upper end of the price scale for wind, which currently runs between $32-62, with offshore installations at the upper end.

The cost factor, certainly did not go unnoticed. Dorine Bosman, the manager developing Shell’s wind business said, “Right now the offshore wind project is competitive with any power source.”

Until recently, Shell had shown little interest in offshore wind, but changed direction rather abruptly, earlier this year with the formation of a “New Energies Unit.”

The plunging renewable prices seem to be pulling in everything around them, much as a sinkhole draws in houses, cars, and trees.

The projects themselves are engineering marvels with building-sized towers driven into sea beds, anchoring propellers with wingspans longer than the largest Airbus.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the European energy companies that are primarily at the forefront of this. Norway’s Statoil ASA already has three wind farms in the Baltic Sea, and is currently developing a floating wind farm off the east coast of Scotland. Since 2010, Statoil has invested $2.1 billion in offshore wind.

Denmark’s state-owned Dong Energy AS, which partnered with Statoil as part of the renowned Kalundborg Symbiosis, has sold off a large portion of its fossil-fuels business and is now the biggest player in the offshore wind market with 29% of global capacity. One reason wind is doing so well is that once a wind farm is built, prices stay essentially the same. Not so with oil or gas fields.

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