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1 November 2017

The US signs an agreement with Denmark to boost cooperation on offshore wind

In an unexpected turn of events, the US and Denmark have signed a new cooperation agreement to further the expansion of offshore wind in North America.  

The US has indicated that it wants to take advantage of Danish expertise in the sector, especially from companies, such as DONG Energy (Ørsted) and Vestas.

 Lars Christian Lilleholt, the Energy and Climate Minister, met with Ryan Zinke, US Secretary of the interior in Washington DC to formalise the agreement between the countries.

Mr. Lilleholt said: “It is a huge scoop that we now get a formal cooperation with the Trump administration on offshore wind. Denmark is a small country, but when it comes to wind energy, we are a superpower”.

He added: “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”.

The cooperation will revolve around the exchange of knowledge and experience, and consultation on how the US could capitalise on the many benefits offshore wind can offer.

Thomas Brostroem, Head of DONG’s U.S. business told Reuters: “We see some positive initiatives coming out of the administration in Washington”.

“They’ve been really receptive to talk to European countries and developers to get know-how”.

US offshore wind is slowly growing, and  is about to launch its first large-scale offshore auction in Massachusetts in December.

At the moment, the country only has 5 offshore turbines from 1 project alongside its entire coastline, generating 30MW in total.

Adam Thomsen, Head of U.S. growth implementation at MHI Vestas, a joint venture between Vestas and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said: “Something that is important for the new administration is jobs, jobs, jobs and that is something that will come from the supply chain around the turbines”.

The agreement will not mean setting up new manufacturing factories for offshore turbine parts in the US; Mr. Thomsen explained that “we need a much more stable market development before we can talk factories”.

He also revealed some numbers, arguing that a target of 1GW of new installed capacity is realistic by 2020, meaning that the annual capacity expansion could be between 500MW and 1GW.

He added: “There’s no doubt that this is a sleeping giant”.

The US Department of Energy has estimated that 36 percent of US electricity can be generated by wind energy by 2050, one-fifth of which coming from offshore wind.

However, for this estimation to come true the US will need an investment of approximately $400 billion.

Lars Christian Lilleholt also invited Secretary Zinke to visit Denmark next year to experience first-hand the offshore wind developments in the country and the solutions they can offer. 

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