Europe & US Boost Their Domestic Wind Energy Industries

Highlights :

  • Vineyard Wind 1, the United States’ “first commercial scale offshore wind farm,” is an 800 MW project.

  • The Port Esbjerg is building a large production facility for wind turbine towers for Danish firm Valmont SM.
  • The Nigg Offshore Wind factory, the UK’s “largest factory for making steel towers for offshore wind turbines,” will built in the Highlands.

Announcements of new projects and partnerships — Vineyard Wind 1, Valmont SM’s new wind turbine tower factory at Port of Esbjerg, and the Nigg Offshore Wind factory, to name a few — indicate that Europe and the US are ramping up their wind manufacturing capacity to gain a strong foothold in the much anticipated renewable energy-powered future.

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Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Avangrid, and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), has broken ground on Vineyard Wind 1, the United States’ “first commercial scale offshore wind farm.”

The 800-megawatt (MW) project, located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, is expected to generate electricity for more than 400,000 homes and businesses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, create 3,600 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) job years, save customers $1.4 billion over the first 20 years of operation, and is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 1.6 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 325,000 cars off the road annually.

Danish offshore wind turbine tower manufacturer Valmont SM has signed an agreement with the Port Esbjerg for an exclusive option to have the port build a large production facility for wind turbine towers. The location allows the company to shorten the distance from production to erection of new wind turbines significantly and will provide it a competitive edge, Valmont SM CEO Niels Brix has been quoted as saying.

The Port of Esbjerg said the agreement fitted in perfectly with the newly announced expansion of the port as well as the growing demand for wind energy and the port’s ambitions to contribute even more to the green transition of European energy supply. The project has received approval for 500,000 square metres of additional harbour area and another 76,000 square metres of sea, while a section of 170,000 square metres will be deepened to create new navigation channels and fairways.

In 2026, 350 metres of new quay will be ready for use. The quay will be 50 metres wide and will be equipped with a 30-metre-wide double loading platform for Ro-Ro vessels. In total, the expansion will add 750,000 square metres of extra space to the port area in Esbjerg.

The UK’s largest factory for making steel towers for offshore wind turbines is likely to soon be built in the Highlands. Inverness-headquartered Global Energy Group, which owns the port, and Spanish company Haizea Wind Group are behind the plans. The £110m facility has been proposed for Port of Nigg on the Cromarty Firth. The investment needed would come from a syndicate which includes SSE Renewables, in addition to funding from the Scottish and UK governments.

The Nigg Offshore Wind factory is expected to employ 400 people and in a year could roll 135 steel plate for towers each weighing more than 1,000 tonnes. The initial contracts for tower supply would be focused on UK domestic supply, but its backers suggest the factory would be in high demand for export of towers and other products to across Europe up until 2050.

The moves to strengthen domestic manufacturing assume significance considering how Europe and the US ceded solar manufacturing to China. That move backfired spectacularly, with these countries utterly dependent on China for most supplies at a time of rising demand. With Wind, clearly the will is stronger to hold on local manufacturing, even as China has started focusing harder too. Our reading is that the wind energy segment may not be such an easy cakewalk for the Chinese as solar manufacturing was. Especially Offshore wind, where conditions also provide a ready market for Europe and the US, unlike solar, where China had the benefit of a massive domestic market too.

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