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United States

AWEA 2017: Building on the momentum in the US offshore wind industry

SPONSORED CONTENT: Sometimes it just feels as if the wind is at your back. That's a bit the mood in the US Offshore Wind Industry these days.

GE Renewable Energy offshore wind CEO John Lavelle at AWEA Windpower 2017
GE Renewable Energy offshore wind CEO John Lavelle at AWEA Windpower 2017

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For the first time in US history, a community is now fully powered by offshore wind energy, and today Block Island inhabitants get their electricity from our 5 GE's Haliades 150-6MW, that will produce enough power to fill the needs of local homes, and satisfy the needs during the upcoming summer tourism season.

Annually, the local residents will save up to 1 million gallons of diesel that were burned annually.

At GE, we are proud to have helped our customer Deepwater Water reach this important milestone for US offshore wind industry.

With 'steel in the water,' we've taken an important step: from the theoretical to the tangible. People now can see that offshore wind can and does work for the US.

And it's not just Block Island. Recent announcements by the Maryland Public Service Commission and utilities in Massachusetts – as well as previous statements by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – provide additional evidence that the offshore wind industry is poised to make a growing contribution to US energy markets.

The long-term story is also promising. The US Department of Energy has estimated that the country has the potential to create up to 86GW of offshore wind capacity by 2050, and just a couple of weeks ago Maryland state approved new offshore projects adding a big momentum to the US offshore accelerating environment.

Why all the activity and why now? Policy makers want to tap into the unique ability of offshore wind to meet clean energy goals, create jobs and other economic benefits, and provide reliable power to cities along the coast that are constrained in building new power plants.

States are positioning themselves to reap 'first mover' advantages while also satisfying their clean energy goals. No doubt offshore is on the upswing in the US with multiple new opportunities on the horizon.

At GE we want to continue to be part of such great story; we are the only offshore wind turbine supplier with an offshore windfarm in the country, and soon we will become the first to have projects in Europe, Asia and in the Americas, as a result of our recently announced Chinese Xinghua Gulf deal.

Additionally our business is working on putting in place one of the largest offshore windfarms in Germany (396 MW Merkur Windfarm), and we still have some additional 1,500MW backlog.

And let's not forget the LM acquisition that will help us to become more competitive as blades are becoming increasingly important as a performance and product cost differentiator.

We want to become one of the industry leaders and that's why we are exploring multiple and strategic ways to determine how to better compete and deliver results today and in the years to come.

The future is about size, performance, technology, innovation. All those are key to compete in a global offshore world, and we take advantage of the advanced composite research being done at our Global Research Center, and continue to look for ways to adapt our digital wind farm operating to our offshore portfolio.

The US is ready for offshore, we just need to convey the many benefits it has: it's clean, low/no carbon power, it's ideally suited to coastal communities along the East coast that often are not in a position to site natural gas or other power plants on land.

It can help create economic development including taking advantage of all the supply chain expertise in the oil and gas industry that is currently has some excess capacity and significant relevant expertise.

With so much momentum, we must also continue to inject a dose of realism in to discussions with policy makers and others.

For example, we need to be clear policy maker that the investments needed to produce maximum economic development benefits and the most competitive possible prices require a pipeline with sufficient scale and visibility.

That said, this is a truly exciting time to be part of the offshore wind industry in the U.S. At GE, we are looking forward to supporting our customers with technology options that enable them to drive the offshore wind market forward.

John Lavelle is GE Renewable Energy offshore wind CEO

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