Investing in the UK Offshore Wind Boom

Offshore Wind is the New Black!

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted August 5, 2015

offshoreOffshore windfarms are quite the spectacle.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen one in person, but they truly are “modern marvels.”

The size of each turbine alone is enough to hypnotize even the biggest wind power skeptics, and the engineering that keeps these things from collapsing in the face of crashing waves and hurricane-force winds is just mind-blowing.

Of course, despite the magnificence of these structures, and their ability to juice the grid with all the power and efficiency we’ve come to expect from fossil fuel-generated power, cost has long been an issue.

In the United States, cost has really been the major hurdle. That, plus the folks who find offshore wind farms aesthetically offensive. Although I can’t imagine anything quite as aesthetically offensive as an outdated coal-fired power plant. But I don’t assume to dictate what pleases the eye and what doesn’t.

In any event. while the U.S. has lagged a bit in offshore wind development, other parts of the world have been very aggressive, such as Denmark, Germany, Finland, Norway, Spain and the U.K.

Of course, we have to be honest here. Most of these countries have pumped a significant amount of capital into these projects. They’ve all been heavily subsidized, and many are the result of government policies that support the integration of offshore wind power.

Truth is, I’ve never been a fan of government subsidies for any form of power generation or distribution. This goes for renewables as well as fossil fuels and nuclear - both of which have benefited handsomely from decades upon decades of government support.

That being said, I’m not going waste time today discussing why I’m opposed to government meddling in the energy space. Because this has nothing to do with us making money from renewable energy.

What I do want to share with you, however, are the results of a new report that further support the thesis that the global transition of our energy economy is absolutely being facilitated by advances in renewable energy.

Cheaper than Natural Gas

Norwegian utility giant, Statkraft, recently released a new report that suggests offshore wind power in the UK will be competitive with new gas-fired plants in just five years.

Here’s a small snippet …

[The report] highlights the costs of offshore wind are starting to fall sharply as a result of the introduction of large turbines and advances in foundation technology. Continued downward pressure on the cost of energy due to the introduction of even larger and more efficient turbines after 2020 will see offshore wind projects going into construction in 5 years-time that are competitive with new gas plant.

From the late 2020's the repowering of the oldest projects with more advanced technology could see the advent of offshore wind that is below the cost of gas generation, even under the Governments lowest price forecast.

This marks a radical step towards subsidy-free offshore wind and will enable the UK to continue to decarbonise through the 2020's cost-effectively, providing "return on investment" for successive governments that have established the UK as the world leader in the industry.

In addition to the provision of cost effective energy, the report suggests the thriving UK offshore wind sector will also deliver:

  • A world leading manufacturing and construction supply chain directly creating almost 18,000 long-term, direct jobs by 2025 in manufacturing, construction and operations, mostly in the Northern Powerhouse and coastal areas with traditionally high levels of unemployment.
  • A significant global export opportunity worth over £200 billion, which will see UK-based companies provide products, services and knowledge to markets throughout Europe, Asia and the USA, replicating the success of North Sea oil and gas and significantly contributing to UK productivity

Great news for the UK, and great news for Vestas Wind Systems (OTCBB: VWDRY), too, which has a significant presence in the UK, both in the form of manufacturing and installations.

The bottom line is that we know the UK remains aggressive on offshore wind power development. And if Statkraft is correct, the competitiveness of offshore wind compared to natural gas will facilitate a rapid proliferation of offshore wind in the UK - from which Vestas will profit handsomely.