US and Denmark to work on offshore wind energy expansion

Offshore wind power is only now getting off the ground in the US, whereas in Europe the sector is well established, with Denmark as a leader. Now the two nations have agreed to expand their co-operation to help expand offshore wind capacity.

The push comes despite US President Donald Trump’s reluctance regarding renewable energy – offshore wind in particular – and his vow to revive the US coal industry. Trump famously and unsuccessfully battled to prevent construction of a wind farm off his luxury golf resort in northeastern Scotland.

Denmark’s Energy and Climate Minister Lars Christian Lilleholt met with US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Washington DC to formalise the collaborative deal, according to the Copenhagen Post. “Being able to formally co-operate with the Trump administration concerning wind energy is a huge scoop. Denmark is a small country, but when it comes to wind energy, we are a superpower,” said the Danish minister.

Initially, the US and Denmark will exchange experience and knowledge regarding how the US can expand its offshore wind sector. In addition, however, Lilleholt also met with District Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) Tommy Wells, and agreed that the Danish Energy Agency would also exchange knowledge on district heating and energy planning.

The US has only one offshore project installed so far, the 30-MW Block Island scheme off New England. Several other far larger projects are in the works elsewhere off the East Coast, but most are years from completion.

“We were the first nation in the world to erect wind turbines in the sea over 25 years ago in 1991, and since then Danish energy firms have led the way in offshore wind energy,” said Lilleholt, who invited Zinke to visit Denmark in 2018 to gain first-hand experience of its offshore wind industry.

Despite the public rhetoric of the Trump White House, industry leaders were confident in the political will. “We see some positive initiatives coming out of the administration in Washington,” said the head of DONG’s US business, Thomas Brostrøm, in an interview with Reuters. “They’ve been really receptive to talk to European countries and developers to get know-how from the past decades,” he said.

Major European entrants into the nascent US of fshore wind sector include Denmark’s DONG Energy, which is changing its name to Ørsted and which is divesting its oil and gas business, and Norway’s oil giant, Statoil.

Clemson University in South Carolina was also recently chosen by MHI Vestas – the Japanese-Danish joint venture for offshore wind and which has the second largest share of the market globally – for testing its new giant 9.5-MW offshore wind turbine.

Studies conducted by the US’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in 2016 suggested that the country’s technical offshore wind potential exceeds 2 TW of capacity, spread across the Atlantic, Pacific, Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico.