It looks as though 2012 is going to be another pivotal year for wind energy. Battling against economic and financial headwinds and cuts in subsidies and other financial incentives, wind energy industry players worldwide are looking offshore for opportunities to continue growing their businesses.
As in other renewable energy sectors, European governments and industry have been leading the way forward in terms of developing offshore wind resources and technology. Now, South Korea’s industrial heavyweights, backed by the South Korean government’s strategic renewable energy plans, are ramping up their investments in offshore wind.
In November, South Korea announced it would build the world’s largest offshore wind farm, investing some US$9 billion in a three-phase, 2.5-gigawatt (GW) project off its southwestern coast carried out by a consortium of South Korean companies lead by Korea Electric. When it comes to expanding their offshore wind energy business, South Korean industrial giants are looking a lot farther offshore than South Korea’s coastal waters, however.
Samsung Heavy Industries on Feb. 1 announced its intention to establish an offshore wind energy base for offshore wind energy R&D and manufacturing at the Fife Energy Park, not far from the Firth of Forth, according to a Scotsman report. Scotland’s been working for years to establish itself as a clean energy leader, particularly when it comes to marine and wind energy, and it looks like those investments are beginning to pay off.
World’s Largest Wind Turbines
Samsung intends to develop the world’s largest wind turbines at the Fife energy center in Methill, an investment that’s forecast to grow to as much as 100 million pounds (~US$158 million) and result in the creation of as many as 500 green jobs, according to the Scotsman’s report. Scotland’s David Brown Gear Systems has signed a multi-million-pound contract to manufacture the gearbox systems for Samsung HI’s giant offshore wind turbines, which are to be tested in Scottish and South Korean waters. If all goes well, Samsung HI intends to build a manufacturing facility at the Fife Energy Park.
Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond announced the investment program on opening day of the Scottish Offshore Wind Conference in Aberdeen. “Samsung Heavy Industries are one of the great industrial combines in the world and they are committing to develop a seven megawatt turbine here in Scotland at the Fife Energy Park. It is a fantastic announcement and it points up the great potential of Scotland as the key energy provider of the European continent,” he stated.
Obama Administration Cuts 1-2 Years Off Offshore Wind Regulatory Process
Adding to the momentum was yesterday’s announcement by US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the Obama administration has completed a positive environmental impact assessment and has streamlined federal application permit processes for four keystone offshore wind energy areas off the mid-Atlantic coast, setting the stage for federal government auctions later this year.
Offshore wind “is a reliable, clean energy resource that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, curb harmful air pollutants, and create good paying American jobs in manufacturing and construction,” Delaware Democratic Senator Tom Carper was quoted as saying.
Eleven offshore wind energy project developers have submitted proposals for a total 12,000 MW of capacity across offshore wind sites that stretch from New Jersey to Virgnia. The developers are now anticipating being able to bid on leases later this year. They’d still need to conduct their own, specific environmental impact assessments, but the streamlined federal process means these projects could be producing power by 2016 or 2017.
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.