Ørsted thinks big for onshore wind growth in Europe

Danish developer is looking at 100MW-plus projects, hoping to capitalise on BRI’s ability to develop large-scale projects

Ørsted had re-entered the US onshore sector with acquisition of Lincoln Clean Energy in 2018
Ørsted had re-entered the US onshore sector with acquisition of Lincoln Clean Energy in 2018

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Ørsted’s impending acquisition of Brookfield Renewable Ireland (BRI) is the first step towards becoming a “major player” in European onshore clean energy, according to senior management figures.

The Danish firm today (16 April) announced a deal to buy a 100% interest in Brookfield Renewable's existing Ireland and UK onshore wind business, marking its re-entry into European onshore renewables.

It plans to update its expansion targets at its capital market day on 2 June, CEO Mads Nipper told reporters on a conference call – suggesting new onshore wind and solar goals.

“We expect returns for onshore wind in the US and Europe to be attractive,” Nipper said.

“We are not done here. We see European expansion beyond this that we hope will materialise in the coming years.”

Meanwhile, the head of Ørsted’s onshore business unit, Declan Flanagan, said the firm is open to further acquisitions as part of its growth strategy, noting the company’s acquisition of Lincoln Clean Energy in 2018 launched its re-entry into onshore wind in the US. He added that building projects at scale will be a key driver as it grows its onshore renewables fleet in Europe.

Flanagan said that Ørsted was particularly impressed with BRI’s track record of developing 100MW-plus projects in Ireland and Scotland, and its capabilities for energy trading and corporate PPAs

“They have developed and sold multiple projects to institutional buyers in recent years,” he said. “We believe they can execute at scale, and we believe there is much more capacity for growth under Ørsted’s ownership.

“We see the potential to expand the tech focus to include solar and storage, positioning us to be the largest multi-tech player in the Irish market.”

BRI has 389MW of onshore wind farms under construction or in operation in Ireland and the UK, 149MW in advanced development, and a further 1GW-plus in various stages of development.

Flanagan said that the UK’s next contract for differences tender – due later this year, and set to include onshore wind and solar – may come too soon for this pipeline of advanced projects.

However, he added that the Danish company’s acquisition of BRI creates longer-term development opportunities created for expanding in Europe. CEO Nipper noted that BRI has already developed and sold projects in other European markets beyond the UK and Ireland.

“We plan to be a major European onshore renewables player,” Flanagan said.

BRI adds more tools to the toolbox. “The BRI team can be really useful in a pan-European business.”

Ørsted expects its acquisition of BRI to close in the second quarter of 2021.

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