Offshore wind continues to gain momentum

First offshore wind farm in U.S. moves closer to construction, Vestas board member resigns to support its offshore JV with MHI, and Bloomberg predicts continued growth in wind at coal’s expense.

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The Associated Press reported that on July 1, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE, Washington, D.C., USA) announced its conditional commitment to a $150 million loan guarantee for Cape Wind’s (Falmouth, Mass., USA) proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod. Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said the announcement represents an “important endorsement” by the federal government as Cape Wind seeks to attract the remaining private capital needed to get the estimated $2.6 billion first commercial-scale offshore wind facility in the U.S underway.

When operational, 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound are projected to produce more than 360 MW of electricity, enough to supply most of the needs for Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. It will also create roughly 400 construction jobs and 50 operations jobs. Cape Wind’s web-site notes that there are now 64 offshore wind farms operating in Europe, employing 58,000 people and that Denmark obtains almost 30 percent of its electricity from windpower.

According to company spokesperson Mark Rodgers,  the Cape Wind development is financing 101 wind turbines under power purchase agreements (PPAs), having sold 77.5 percent of its output to  National Grid and NSTAR. As soon as it finds a buyer for the rest of its power - about 29 turbines  - it will finance these remaining turbines.  "Our goal is to complete project financing by the end of this year," Rodgers says.

As reported by North American Windpower, executive director at the DOE's loan programs office (LPO) Peter Davidson commented via a DOE blog, "By working with the industry, the department has helped drive down the cost of onshore wind in the U.S. by about 90 percent since the early 1980s". He continues, “Today, onshore wind can power 15.5 million American homes and drives annual investment of $25 billion. We hope to replicate that success with offshore wind."

Meanwhile, Vestas (Aarhus, Denmark) announced that Knud Bjarne Hansen, board member elected by the employees, has announced that he will retire from the Board of Directors of Vestas Wind Systems A/S as of 1 July 2014 in order to dedicate all of his efforts to supporting Vestas’ new joint venture:  MHI Vestas Offshore Wind A/S.

Finally, in a new report called BNEF 2030 Market Outlook, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF, London, UK) forecasts $7.7 trillion to be invested globally in new power generating capacity by 2030, with 66 percnet of that going to renewable technologies including hydro. BNEF reports out of the $5.1 trillion to be spent on renewables, Asia-Pacific will account for $2.5 trillion, the Americas $816 billion, Europe $967 billion and the rest of the world, including the Middle East and Africa, $818 billion.

 “Two striking conclusions from our research,” says Michel DiCapua, head of Americas analysis for BNEF, “First, wind and solar will win bigger and bigger shares of the investment in new capacity as their technology costs go on falling; second, coal will be in rapid retreat.”