Offshore Wind Gets A Virginia Foothold

By Peter Brennan, Offshore Wind Wire

Joris Benninga and Paul Vosbeek are founding partners at Real NewEnergy. The company recently announced the Poseidon Atlantic project, a testing and certification center primarily focused on offshore wind turbines.

image via Shutterstock

Offshore Wind Wire: Please tell us more about the testing that will take part at the new facility. What offshore wind technology will be tested and how will that be conducted?

Joris Benninga and Paul Vosbeek: Poseidon Atlantic will be a full service turbine testing and certification facility, providing a coherent portfolio of sites for prototype testing, infrastructure, wind measurements and wind turbine testing and certification services. It is geared towards wind turbine manufacturers who need IEC certification, or wish to run extensive research programs for their new turbines. Also developers or large utilities that want to test innovative new turbines before applying them in large numbers can be clients. Finally also Transmission System Operators (grid companies) can be clients as they can test the impact of new turbine designs on their grids.

Poseidon Atlantic will assist the manufacturers in obtaining required licenses, grid connection, access roads, and glass fiber network infrastructure.  It will provide manufacturers with a complete portfolio of IEC compliant measurements required for prototype certification.  Since the site is designated for turbine testing at least one full certification measurement campaign (or equivalent) will be completed per turbine.  This business model extends the successful test center managed by Ecofys at Lelystad, in the Netherlands.

The turbines are tested along IEC prescribed procedures for electrical and mechanical safety, performance and noise production. Typically wind measurements, production measurements and other monitoring activities are the core of the test work. After this, the test results are verified by an independent verifier. After IEC testing is completed, normally longer term tests are continued for 5 years or more.

OWW: Why did you choose Virginia, and Northampton County in particular?

Benninga and Vosbeek: We choose Virginia and more specifically Northampton county on the Eastern Shore because there is space and wind and it is close enough to the Hampton roads area where more (offshore) wind energy activities are being developed. The area is uniquely suited to become a hub for offshore wind development because of the deep unobstructed and near sea ports and the skilled and flexible workforce in the area. The sites will be selected to allow for compliance with IEC certification standards in combination with short certification times. In addition, we found the local board of supervisors to be very supportive of the idea which is reflected in the approval of an unprecedented wind-ordinance that accommodates the size and height of future generation turbines.

OWW: There appears to be extensive coordination between your project and Virginia state officials. What is your opinion of governmental support for offshore wind in the United States, on the state and federal level?

Benninga and Vosbeek: We have had tremendous support from the various offices of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Commonwealth supports Poseidon Atlantic because it is a private-sector driven, commercial operation that has proven itself in other parts of the world and that fits well in the current timeframe and offshore wind ambitions of the state and of the United States. In addition, we have found a very strong partner and advocate in the Virginia Port Authority who recognizes the potential positive impact this project will have on the various port facilities. The Virginia Department of Mines and Minerals is a strong supporter of the development of renewables in the Commonwealth in general, including offshore wind. The collective support from these state organizations have contributed tremendously to a solid and expedited development of Poseidon Atlantic.

It is hard to say what the specific future federal support for offshore wind will look like. A general form of production tax credit or other incentive for renewables is likely to stay, but we expect no specific large federal budgets for offshore wind. The current distribution of limited [Department of Energy] funds is thoughtful but has the risk of being too dispersed. What would be positive is a federal effort to re-align some existing federal offshore related monitoring and research budgets towards offshore wind. Developers for example would really be helped with dedicated comprehensive scientific met-masts in the center of all major lease blocks. For the mid-Atlantic this would be a $40-$50M effort, that would yield a massive amount of information and without doubt would help to attract development initiatives.

OWW: Where do you see the US offshore wind industry in 10 years?

Benninga and Vosbeek: The US offshore wind industry has a good chance to be thriving in 10 years. We expect world-wide offshore activities in general to grow strongly over time, fossil energy to become more expensive and offshore wind to become more competitive. So the global trend is very positive and robust for offshore wind. The US will gradually embrace renewables as part of its strategic energy direction, and this will enlarge the home market over time. Smart US companies anticipate this trend by partnering and developing products and services that can first be exported to Europe’s, China’s and South America’s offshore wind markets and be used at home after that. In terms of technologies, solar will be bigger than now foreseen and offshore wind has its place in that renewables portfolio, especially on the east coast.

Costs will have to come down but not by as much as the levels that DOE is envisioning now. We expect that in 10 years from now, wholesale prices for coal and natural gas generated electricity will have gone up (in today’s dollars) to 10-15 cents per kWh, reflecting the costs of new power plant infrastructure, more expensive fuels and climate change mitigation and adaptation costs. Offshore wind will fit in nicely in that cost-range in 10-15 years. Competitive economies in Germany and The Netherlands have shown that such energy price levels do not prevent healthy economic development in any way, as long as you allow the transition to a more sustainable energy supply to happen gradually.

Editor’s Note: This interview comes to us as a cross post courtesy of our new content partners at Offshore Wind Wire. Author credit for the interview goes to Peter Brennan.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.

    • RJ

      Ask the Netherlands Government about the cost of offshore windfarms….