Leading offshore wind developer Ørsted says it expects delays to its U.S. portfolio, but said it is moving to seize a wave of opportunities on offer globally during the next 18 months.
Asked by an analyst Wednesday which of the 25 to 30 gigawatts of offshore wind tenders scheduled between now and the end of 2021 that the Danish company will be pursuing, outgoing CEO Henrik Poulsen said: “All of them.”
Tenders are planned in the U.S., Japan, the U.K., Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France and Poland. Taiwan may also hold an auction.
Mitigating U.S. delays
Ørsted also offered an update on its U.S. projects, which have been caught up in federal permitting delays — a process the company now says is on pause.
“Even assuming the permitting process starts moving within the first quarter of next year, it appears highly likely that Revolution Wind, Ocean Wind, Skipjack and Sunrise Wind will be delayed beyond the previously expected 2023 and 2024 construction years,” Poulsen said.
Speaking during what will be his final quarterly results call, Poulson added that the company had made progress on a number of other fronts, including with state-level permits in the U.S.
As well as making progress with choosing operations and maintenance bases and arranging grid-connection sites, Poulsen touted the potential for technology to help scrub out the impact of delays.
Ørsted has already chosen GE’s 12-megawatt Haliade-X turbine for 120 MW Skipjack project and the 1,100 MW Ocean Wind project. Now, Poulsen says, they are looking to upgrade from the 8 MW Siemens Gamesa turbine chosen for Sunrise, Revolution Wind and South Fork. He also said the company would be able to “maintain and optimize” its tax credits for all U.S. projects where the turbine will be optimized.
Siemens Gamesa launched a 14 MW turbine after it had signed the 1.7 GW deal with Ørsted only a little more than a year ago.
With no fewer than seven auctions lined up in the U.S., Poulsen said it that the company could potentially exhaust all of its seabed leases.
Developers in the Northeastern U.S. have agreed to spacing between turbines in U.S. waters of 1 nautical mile, or around 1,800 meters. Turbines in Europe can be as close together as 500 meters. A switch to larger turbines would make up for some of the losses of a more sparsely configured offshore wind operation.
Poulsen said increased turbine sizes would also compensate for the impact the federal delays are having on project economics.
“[Larger turbines are] a meaningful opportunity to offset the financial impact from the permitting delays,” he said. While he wouldn’t commit to it writing off all the impact of the delay, he did say the change would leave the returns from the projects at a level they’d be happy with.
New data from trade body RenewableUK released Wednesday showed that the global pipeline of offshore wind projects had grown 50 percent in a year.
Poulsen said the market had doubled in size since the firm’s last capital markets day two years ago. “We are probably the only developer in the world [that] actually could join every single one of these opportunities,” he said.
Asked whether its 15 GW deployment target for 2025 should be revised upward, Poulsen said that would be a question for his successor Mads Nipper, who takes over as CEO on January 1, 2021.
Ørsted’s latest financial results reflected lower power demand, offset by an extra 500 MW of generation capacity and an increase in installed capacity of 1,200 MW.
With Hornsea 1 in the U.K. and Borssele 1 & 2 in the Netherlands adding new spinning turbines, offshore wind earnings grew 15 percent.
The DKK 1.1 billion ($174 million) divestment of its Danish power distribution and residential customer businesses masked a drop in net profit compared to the same period last year. Without the divestment, net profit was DKK 877 million compared to DKK 1,443 billion in Q3 2019.