Thomas Brostrøm, General Manager North America, Wind Power for the Danish energy business DONG Energy writes about his new challenge as the business looks to develop its first offshore wind farm in the US.
It is not every day that you get the opportunity to introduce your business to a new continent!
But that’s the challenge that came my way when DONG Energy – the global leader in offshore wind energy – set its sights on entering the rapidly developing US renewable energy market.
Today I am a regular visitor to our new office in the financial district of Boston…when I am not on a plane commuting over the Atlantic.
Why are we here? Earlier this year we agreed to take over the newly assigned development project rights for a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts that could eventually generate more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity – enough to meet the needs of almost 500,000 Massachusetts homes. The rights had originally been assigned through an offshore wind auction held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to RES Americas Development Inc. who will continue to support the development of the leased area.
The project we are looking at covers an area of and is located approximately 40 kilometers from shore. The site conditions are quite similar to those we currently work with in North-Western Europe which means that the project could be developed using well-known technology and logistics.
The pictures shows the erection of one of the Siemens 6MW demonstration turbines at Gunfleet Sands in the UK
A draft policy bill to support the regulatory conditions for offshore wind has been introduced with the Massachusetts government aiming to provide a stable framework that will enable the build-out of projects and the creation of new jobs.
The US is of course no stranger to onshore wind power with around 66 gigawatts of capacity accounting for 4.4% of total consumption coming from this source by the end of 2014. But, despite huge potential, offshore wind has been slower getting off the blocks. But things are starting to move now. Cue DONG Energy.
We are one of the largest energy businesses in Northern Europe, taking on our current form back in 2006 through the merger of six Danish businesses whose involvement in the energy business dates back to 1857. Today the business has over 6,500 employees who explore for and produce natural gas, generate electricity and heat from offshore wind farms or thermal power stations and supply residential and business customers with energy.
Recent years have seen the business moving away from coal-fired generation plants to focus on offshore wind where we have recently reached a landmark total of 3GW of installed capacity across Northern Europe.
I have spent the past 3 years leading business development for DONG Energy Wind Power in the UK which has witnessed phenomenal growth in offshore wind to lead the world with more than 4,000 MW of installed capacity. DONG Energy has been responsible for about a third of the wind turbines now deployed around the UK coastline.
The move into the US market is an exciting prospect. It will allow us to broaden our geographical scope and follow the market potential outside our current footprint. I believe that DONG Energy can bring a lot of experience and expertise into a developing market place.
The picture shows Anholt offshore wind farm
But these are early days and this is a long-term business. Don’t expect to see offshore wind farms emerging overnight. This is just the start of a journey on which we need to build political, regulatory and community support as we make the case for the construction of offshore wind farms in future.
I look forward to talking to people about offshore wind farms. The latest generation of wind turbines are incredible feats of engineering technology – and they need to be able to operate out in the ocean, harvesting the wind for up to 25 years.
For the moment we have a relatively small office in Boston, but I envisage our team growing steadily as the project develops. If things develop to plan, we expect to recruit local people to the team following a pattern which is very much part of DONG Energy’s culture.
In the meantime, if you want to know more about DONG Energy or our US project, do get in touch.