As the wind industry continues its march toward becoming a mainstream source of electricity, some new entrants are poised to help it along its path.
For onshore wind, those include companies with digital products that provide better operations and maintenance solutions, such as drone companies and companies that can provide artificial intelligence.
“As the equipment is becoming more sophisticated you are seeing new entrants into the market,” said Tristan Grimbert, President and CEO of EDF Renewable Energy and outgoing chairman of the board of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), speaking during a press conference at AWEA’s WINDPOWER 2018. He mentioned 3M as an example.
“It’s not the diversification in the sense of having more players doing the same thing, it’s less players doing the same thing but more players coming to add additional technology to the mix,” he said.
Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of AWEA added that he’s seeing more players enter the onshore wind industry on the finance side as well. He mentioned Blackrock, State Street and Vanguard during his keynote.
“Since tax reform there are some new investors investing in wind because they see the upside,” he said.
AWEA incoming board president Steve Lockard, who is President and CEO of TPI Composites, a blade manufacturer, doesn’t see a need for more companies on the supply side of the industry.
“I think on the onshore part of it, I’m not sure we need more diversity from the supply chain perspective. There’s a pretty efficient supply chain that has built up both globally and within the U.S. that is cost-effectively serving the needs,” he said.
But “offshore is a different story,” he said.
For offshore wind, which is just beginning to gain a foothold in the U.S., oil and gas companies are exploring how they may play a role. Lockard said companies with experience in offshore oil and gas in the U.S. and companies with experience building offshore wind in Europe are coming into the U.S. wind industry.
“There is probably more work to be done there,” he said.
Kiernan echoed that statement and explained that AWEA and the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), which is the lobbying arm of the oil and gas industry, have had several successful meetings to see about synergies within their industries.
“I spoke at their recent meeting because they are saying ‘hey, we’d like to help out here, we have a lot of experience offshore, what can we do?’” said Kiernan, who added that AWEA is “enthusiastically” embracing their interest.
“They’ve got expertise, they’ve got ports, they’ve got well-trained employees,” he said.
[Editor’s note: The Offshore Wind Executive Summit, a conference designed to showcase business opportunities in the burgeoning U.S. offshore wind industry for U.S. oil and gas companies, will take place this September in Houston, Texas.]