每日跟讀#571: An Opportunity Rises Offshore
When engineers faced resistance from residents in Denmark over plans to build wind turbines on the Nordic country’s flat farmland, they found a better locale: the sea. The offshore wind farm, the world’s first, had just 11 turbines and could power about 3,000 homes.
That project now looks like a minnow compared with the whales that sprawl for miles across the seas of Northern Europe.
Off this venerable British port city, a Danish company, DONG Energy, is installing 32 turbines that stretch 600 feet high. Each turbine produces more power than that first facility.
It is precisely the size, both of the projects and the profits they can bring, that has grabbed the attention of banks, money managers, private equity funds and wealthy individuals like the owner of the Danish toymaker Lego and the investment bank Goldman Sachs. As the technology has improved and demand for renewable energy has risen, costs have fallen.
And offshore wind, once a fringe investment, with limited scope and reliant on government subsidies, is moving into the mainstream. Europe, too, looks all the more attractive, as the United States under President Donald Trump rethinks its stance on renewables.
“If you had polled infrastructure investors five years ago, only a few would have been looking at offshore wind,” said Suzanne Buchta, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch global co-head of green bonds.
Now, she said, they “are a little more comfortable.”
Offshore wind has several advantages over land-based renewable energy, whether wind or solar. Turbines can be deployed at sea with fewer complaints than on land, where they are often condemned as eyesores.
But the technology had been expensive and heavily dependent on government subsidies, leaving investors wary. That is now changing.
Turbines today are bigger, produce much more electricity and are deployed on much larger sites than in the past. The result is more clean power and extra revenue.
The number of major players has also expanded, creating more competition. A joint venture of Vestas, the Danish turbine maker, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan, is now competing with Siemens, which had long dominated the market for building offshore turbines. Others, like the American giant General Electric and Chinese manufacturers, are also jumping into the game.
“For us competition is great,” said Benj Sykes, Britain country manager for DONG. “It drives innovation. It drives performance. It also drives cost.”
Companies are developing specialized vessels and improving installation techniques (taking a cue from the oil industry), cutting construction timetables. DONG and its competitors are learning to better cope with the bad weather, corrosive saltwater and scouring currents that increase costs.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/310478/web/