Wind’s giants battered but unbowed, energy transition ‘war footing’ and Big Oil on the march

Turbine manufacturers are under unprecedented scrutiny over their ability to drive forward the wind power element of the energy transition while simultaneously surviving huge commercial pressures.

The OEMs showed their mettle again last year as they managed to install a record 99GW of global capacity, with Denmark’s Vestas retaking its crown as the market leader, eagerly awaited annual data from BloombergNEF revealed.

The BNEF figures also showed how the combination of a spike in Chinese installations and the vagaries of the global pipeline pushed Siemens Gamesa off its long-held top spot in offshore wind, for a year at least.

It was the Spanish-German group’s onshore wind division, however, that was on the mind of new CEO Jochen Eickholt as he spoke for the first time since taking over from Andreas Nauen at the beginning of March.

Eickholt tackled head-on claims by some commentators that Siemens Gamesa’s onshore and offshore operations should be split, saying the OEM can’t be successful in the long term without wind on land.

The turbulence in the market was on view again this week as Vestas said it will make hundreds more job cuts as it navigates a “highly volatile business environment”.

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There were also, however, reminders of the massive opportunities awaiting the world’s wind OEMs, whether from steelmaker ArcelorMittal’s plans for a vast, privately-funded renewables complex in India, a multi-billion-euro extension to Ireland’s only offshore wind farm, or the type of major Nordic projects newly-won by Nordex.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has “changed the paradigm” for what’s widely acknowledged as one of the power couples of the energy transition – offshore wind and hydrogen with their dual potential to provide decarbonisation and energy security at huge scale.

That was among the most resonant messages to emerge from a high-level panel that gathered for a Recharge Digital Roundtable on the ‘new-age industrial marriage’ between the two, with contributions from key players such as Siemens Gamesa, BP and Floating Power Plant, among others. (A free replay is available here for those who missed it).

The ambitions of those seeking to unite the two were on display this week in plans by Source Energie and technology outfit ERM Dolphyn that could see the first stage of a 2.3GW floating wind-fuelled hydrogen complex off Wales online by 2027.

The Celtic Sea project is of a scale to be applauded by Jonas Moberg of the Green Hydrogen Organisation, who argued in an Opinion piece for Recharge that now is the time to stop “fiddling at the margins of a fossil fuel-based economy” and take radical action.

The far-reaching impacts of Russia’s war were also examined in a Recharge View article by Editor-in-Chief Darius Snieckus, who pointed out that from the horrors of Ukraine is emerging a “war footing” supercharged energy transition that Vladimir Putin could never have envisaged would be a consequence of his aggression.

Two of Europe’s oil giants were on the march again in offshore wind this week – in both cases adding plans to the renewable source to long-standing hydrocarbon operations in markets they know well.

Shell’s announcement that it has made the first move to gain consent for up to 17GW of wind power off Brazil was particularly eye catching, putting the group at the forefront of ambitions in what is widely hailed as one of the world’s most promising untapped markets for wind at sea.

Fellow UK-based supermajor BP, meanwhile, made its long-expected move into Asian offshore wind by entering Japan in a tie-up with local conglomerate Marubeni that includes investment in an unnamed project.

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