Orsted has set the pace in global offshore wind for the last decade – there is a strong argument that the sector would have seen nowhere near the stellar progress it has made had it not been for the pioneering spirit shown by the erstwhile Danish oil & gas company.
The next big leap forward for offshore wind is now widely tipped as the one from fixed foundations to floating, and there were signs this week that Orsted, previously more circumspect than many about the technology, may be coming round to the idea. New CEO Mads Nipper told Recharge the company will “look seriously” at opportunities in floating, citing Scotland and California as potential prospects.
If Nipper – who also reported a brightening of prospects for US offshore momentum under Joe Biden – does lead Orsted into floating, it will be a further boost for a market that’s gathering momentum by the week, both in commercial and technical terms.
Orsted’s fellow offshore wind pacesetter Iberdrola is certainly a convert, underlined by its latest 3GW foray into a new geography, Ireland, where two of the three projects in which it took a majority stake are floaters.
Recharge was first to report another forwards move for floating when Japan’s largest power company, TEPCO, joined the pioneering TetraSpar floating wind pilot projectbeing run by Shell, RWE and Stiesdal Offshore Technologies, as the next-generation design gets ready to be towed out for sea-trials off Norway.
And in a promising sign that floating can deliver on its promises to take offshore wind to new levels of performance, FloatGen, the EU’s flagship floating wind prototype, logged record numbers last year, pumping out 14% more power than in 2019 and at a capacity factor as high as 66% – far beyond the average 50% achieved by bottom-fixed offshore wind farms.
If floating wind has a rival to the title of offshore wind’s next big evolutionary leap, it could just be the all-Siemens effort to integrate hydrogen electrolysis with the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine.
Siemens Energy and Siemens Gamesa gave Recharge exclusive insight into their €120m ($145m) bid to get a full-scale prototype into the water by 2026, with a vision to one day have fleets of turbines pumping out green hydrogen in the place of current oil & gas fields.
We can add that vision to the long list of transformative ambitions for the energy transition fuel, which was in the headlines again when Spanish utility Endesa proposed a huge renewable H2 initiative for the country, and 11 major players from the renewable and fossil sectors came together to form Hydrogen Forward to advance prospects in the US.
Fitch Solutions, meanwhile, gave the latest update on green hydrogen’s burgeoning scale, as the research group said there are now 72GW of renewable H2 projects planned globally, 17 of them at gigawatt scale.
The COP26 UN climate summit later this year in Glasgow is widely billed as the biggest moment in the fight against global warming since the Paris Agreement was sealed in 2015.
The spotlight on nations’ individual efforts will intensify as Glasgow approaches, and it may not always be comfortable for political leaders. Recharge reported how BloombergNEF found G20 nations are not even implementing their Paris commitments, let alone any new ones they may make in Scotland.
One of the countries to rank lowest was Australia, which currently seems to be living a double life, part green technology pacesetter – the world’s first gigawatt-scale battery is just the latest innovationto be planned there – part global laggard, thanks to its notoriously climate-sceptical federal government.
That dichotomy was on display again when Australia announced a “goal” to reach net zero emissions by 2050 – but gave no clue as to how it would get there.
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