Energy transition

Tracking the Energy Transition: Wind Floats in Europe, Equinor Tees Up CCS and Battery Storage, and US Solar Companies Move to Strengthen Supply Chain

Partnerships flourish in offshore wind, while Equinor expands its renewables drive and solar companies in the US come together to shore up the supply chain ahead of increased demand.

Environmental technology concept. Sustainable development goals. SDGs.
Partnerships and project queues expand as the push for a zero-carbon future for energy continues to gain momentum.
Source: Getty Images

RWE and Tata Steel have entered a new partnership to support offshore wind power generation in Wales that will include delivery of floating wind structures in the Celtic Sea from Tata Steel’s South Wales facility. The duo will work together to identify the steel components that could be supplied from Tata Steel in floating wind technologies in the gigawatt-scale floating offshore wind projects.

The co-operation agreement will allow the two companies to share knowledge and expertise and demonstrate the shared commitment to supporting the wider industrial decarbonization and economic development of Wales.

“RWE is working with the Welsh government and industry to support the country’s transition to meet its electricity needs with renewable energy by 2035,” said Tom Glover, RWE's UK country chair. “Not only will floating wind deployment in the Celtic Sea provide a renewable and sustainable energy source but it will also generate widespread opportunities for economic growth in Wales, protecting and creating new jobs and supply chain opportunities.”

RWE is proposing to deploy a pipeline of gigawatt-scale floating wind projects in the Celtic Sea as part of the Crown Estate’s upcoming leasing round. If successful, the projects will form a key part of RWE’s innovative decarbonization hub, Pembroke Net Zero Centre, bringing together all areas of RWE’s decarbonization expertise and supporting the transition to net zero in South Wales.

The co-operation agreement will allow the two parties to provide technical assistance and expertise to the Crown Estate, if needed as part of the Celtic Sea leasing process.

Elsewhere offshore, Swedish renewables developer OX2 has submitted a permit application under the act of Sweden’s Exclusive Economic Zone to construct a 5.5-GW offshore wind farm in the Swedish Economic Zone between the islands of Gotland and Öland.

The Aurora wind farm will be composed of up to 370 wind turbines, with a maximum height of 370 m. OX2 has previously applied for a Natura 2000-permit for the Aurora wind farm.

OX2 previously indicated that it expects Aurora to be complete in 2030 at a cost of approximately $18 billion.

The electricity production from the planned wind farm will be about 24 TW-h per year, which is enough electricity to power approximately 5 million households or approximately 17% of the total electricity consumption in Sweden.

“This is the next step to realize the Aurora wind farm,” said Hillevi Priscar, country manager for OX2 Sweden. “Together with our other planned offshore wind farms, it constitutes a significant part of the electricity production Sweden needs to reach the climate targets and to secure the production and energy independence of Sweden.”

OX2 has approximately 11.7 GW of renewable electricity projects in development in Sweden.

Equinor Eyes Carbon Capture and Battery Storage
Norway’s Equinor has been busy forwarding low-carbon initiatives that will see an expansion of its carbon capture and battery storage businesses. The operator and partner Fluxy will develop a major infrastructure project for transporting captured CO2 from emitters to safe storage sites in the North Sea, connecting Belgium to Norway. The project is in the feasibility stage, with an investment decision expected by 2025.

The project, designed to offer the northwest European market a robust and flexible solution for large-scale decarbonization, includes a 1,000-km CO2 export trunkline operated by Equinor that will transport CO2 for safe and permanent storage under the seabed on the Norwegian continental shelf. The offshore trunkline will connect in Zeebrugge to an onshore CO2 transmission infrastructure built and operated by Fluxys.

The open-access CO2 transmission system will give emitters in Belgium and surrounding countries the opportunity to connect to safe and reliable CO2 stores in Norway. As it goes, liquefied CO2 shipped from neighboring hubs could be connected to the Zeebrugge facility, further increasing the geographical reach of the project. A pipeline branch to the port of Dunkirk is also envisioned and additional connections to other northwest European countries will be assessed as well.

The new offshore pipeline is planned to have a transport capacity of 20 million to 40 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

Equinor has entered the US power market via an agreement to buy US-based battery storage developer East Point Energy. Financial terms were not disclosed. Privately owned East Point Energy is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., and has a 4.1-GW current pipeline of early to mid-stage battery storage projects focused on the US East Coast. According to Equinor, the deal fits its ambition to be a leading company in the energy transition and provides a platform for broadening our energy offerings in the US.

“The acquisition of East Point Energy represents Equinor’s entry into the US power market through flexible assets,” said Olav Kolbeinstveit, senior vice president for power and markets within renewables at Equinor. “It will enable Equinor to further unlock the potential we see in the renewables space in the US, capturing value from volatility in the power markets and providing reliable services to the grid.”

Battery storage is key to enabling further penetration of intermittent renewable power into the global marketplace and can contribute to stabilizing power markets and improve the security of supply.

The acquisition of East Point Energy follows Equinor’s 2021 investment in Noriker Power, a leading battery storage developer in the United Kingdom. The acquisition afurther diversifies Equinor’s energy offerings in the US. Adding flexible battery storage is expected to complement Equinor’s portfolio of offshore wind, upstream oil and gas, and growing opportunities in the hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) space.

East Point Energy will become a subsidiary of Equinor with its team continuing to develop the business and expects to add capabilities to own and operate energy storage projects soon.

The transaction is expected to close during the third quarter of 2022.

Sunseekers Band Together
Elsewhere the US, a group of independent power producers has agreed to spend approximately $6 billion in support of expansion of the US domestic solar power supply chain. The US Solar Buyer Consortium—made up of AES Corporation, Clearway Energy Group, Cypress Creek Renewables, and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments—has launched a competitive request for proposal to search for qualified manufacturers who are aligned with the consortium’s goals and can commit to a long-term strategic partnership to supply up to 7 GW of solar modules per year starting from 2024.

Companies that purchase solar panels from exporters in Asia have struggled with global supply chain disruptions that have driven up costs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Duties on those products, which supply most US projects, would make solar energy more expensive and less competitive with power produced by fossil fuels.

The buying consortium said it will encourage a stable, domestic supply chain for solar modules. Promoting the on-shoring of the module supply chain demonstrates the buying consortium's belief in an American-made solar industry that has the potential to create more than 250,000 new permanent jobs and more than 50,000 new construction jobs by 2035.

"The Consortium has a large and growing pipeline of solar projects in the United States, and we are committed to supporting America's clean energy transition," said Andrés Gluski, AES president and chief executive. "We're working together with customers of all kinds to decarbonize their operations and the grid."

The consortium said increasing solar energy deployment is essential to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. While the White House's recently announced 24-month bridge for certain solar imports and actions to support domestic manufacturing are a large step toward addressing supply chain challenges, the consortium recognizes that more needs to be done to build upon the industry's progress toward providing lower-cost, reliable, clean power to America.