Executives in Europe’s offshore wind energy sector see the United States as a wind market poised for rapid growth in the near future.
Until recently, wind energy generation could only be economically viable with the help of large subsidies. Northern European countries have dominated the sector. But now, with costs plummeting, the U.S. is attracting wind energy companies from abroad who are eager to enter the market. Some have even agreed to build projects without subsidies.
On October 8 Denmark’s Orsted, one of the world’s biggest offshore wind energy developers, announced that it will acquire Deepwater Wind, an American company based in Rhode Island, for $510 million. A former oil and gas company, Orsted is credited with building the world’s first offshore wind farm, Vindeby, off the Danish island of Lolland in 1991. In addition to Denmark, it has projects in the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands, with another under development in Taiwan.
The United States is next. The Deepwater Wind acquisition will give Orsted the opportunity to hone its expertise in American regulatory and political systems. It already has further development in the U.S. in mind. Earlier this year it attempted to win a bid to develop what is expected to be the largest offshore wind installation in the U.S., off the coast of nearby Massachusetts.
The New York Times reports that Martin Neubert, Orsted’s CEO of offshore wind, suggested the company needed to act after failing to win the Massachusetts contract as well as one for a wind installation in Connecticut. He said it is clear that the offshore wind market in the U.S. will grow rapidly in the coming years, and that Orsted wants to be well positioned to compete. “For us, the U.S. offshore wind market is a very attractive, strategically important market,” Neubert said.
Deepwater Wind, owned by hedge fund D. E. Shaw, built America’s first offshore wind farm, located off the Rhode Island coast, in 2016. It has multiple projects in the works, including one near Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Chief Executive Jeffrey Grybowski said the company has been seeking investors or partners to grow its scale and expertise to better compete in what could become a much bigger industry in the U.S. The deal with Orsted will create a new entity, Orsted US Offshore Wind, to be led by Grybowski and Thomas Brostrom, President of Orsted North America.
The changing economics of wind energy are not going unnoticed by utility companies and investors within the United States. Many, including the states of New Jersey and New York, are looking to develop substantial wind farms in the shallow waters off the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.