Orange is the new green, offshore wind’s sweet Carolinas and Europe’s solar rebound

The Netherlands has for some years been determined to punch above its weight in offshore wind and showed no sign of running out of steam as it closed entries for its latest auction.

The 1.4GW-plus Hollandse Kust West (HKW) round is the latest step on the way to what the Dutch government hopes will end in a 21GW offshore wind base by the end of the decade, and had already attracted confirmed entries from power sector players such as Vattenfall and SSE.

The days around this week’s closing date saw major bids emerge from three of Europe’s oil & gas giants – first Shell, in conjunction with Mitsubishi-owned Dutch utility Eneco, followed soon afterwards by BP, and finally TotalEnergies – in the latter case with a green supermajor partner attached in the form of Orsted.

The bids stressed their environmental credentials and ability to integrate with other aspects of the Netherlands energy system, in the case of the BP bid holding out the prospect of a 500MW green hydrogen electrolyser that would be powered by the turbines in a winning bid. TotalEnergies then went further with a plan for 600MW of electrolysis in the event of a successful HKW bid with Orsted.

Renewable H2 and other green fuels, notably around the port of Rotterdam, are now firmly established as another field in which the Netherlands is already aiming to set the pace, underlined this week when French utility Engie announced plans for offshore wind powered green hydrogen, which would then be combined with captured CO2 to make a carbon-neutral form of methanol.

America’s offshore wind journey moved further ahead – and further south – this week when France’s TotalEnergies and the US’s own Duke Energy emerged as winners in the Carolina Long Bay wind energy area, straddling the federal boundary waters between North and South Carolina.

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The Carolinas auction was the first since the spectacular prices paid in the New York Bight round earlier this year, and a more modest affair due to a variety of factors including, as a Recharge analysis article explained, less obvious paths to offtake than in the giant load centres further north.

There was another move of the offshore wind dial across the nation on the west coast, where California’s state draft plan spelled out ambitions to deploy up to 20GW of floating wind as part of its wider decarbonisation agenda.

As in every market, the benefits of America’s impending offshore wind boom are under intense scrutiny. Sector pacesetter Orsted and a federation of construction trade unions committed to hiring unionised workers at “middle-class wages” for its 5GW project pipeline.

As recently as a couple of years ago, the prospect of a large-scale solar manufacturing sector returning to Europe would have been seen as fanciful, given the dominance of the Chinese industry.

That could be changing, not least because of a renewed focus on energy security – and domestic supply chains to underpin it – after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. French start-up Carbon told Recharge in an exclusive interview that it hopes to have a first module gigafactory operating as soon as 2025, while the talk at this week’s Intersolar event was all about big players flocking back to Europe.

There is likely to be no shortage of demand, with new industry data underlining the spectacular growth of a global PV sector that has now entered its ‘terawatt era’.

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