Ørsted, a developer synonymous with offshore wind, will have a novel experience in 2021: All of the new power plants it completes will be onshore, and most will involve solar panels.
Since building the world’s first offshore wind project 30 years ago off the coast of Denmark, no other company has played a bigger role in transforming that technology into a competitive form of power generation. Yet as Ørsted cements its position in emerging offshore wind markets such as the U.S. and Taiwan, the Danish company is also focusing on a new opportunity: North America’s sunny skies.
As of today, Ørsted has not completed a major solar project anywhere in the world, and it has just a single battery project in the U.K. to its name. Fast-forward a year, however, and things will look very different.
Ørsted is currently building two huge solar arrays in Texas and Alabama, totaling nearly 700 megawatts. Particularly striking is the 460-megawatt Permian Energy Center in West Texas, which will sell its solar power to ExxonMobil and includes a 40-megawatt battery system.
If its 2021 construction schedule holds, Ørsted will catapult into the upper echelon of U.S. PV developers in terms of capacity built in a single year, joining the ranks of heavyweights like First Solar and NextEra Energy. Whether Ørsted can sustain its solar pipeline at anything approaching that level remains to be seen, however.
“Solar is the fastest-growing power generation technology in the world,” Vishal Kapadia, chief financial officer of Ørsted’s onshore business, said in an interview. Going forward, the company’s investments will spread across a “regionally and technologically diverse pipeline.” Ørsted’s push into solar has already accelerated its role as an energy storage developer, and that is likely to continue. “Given [solar’s] generation shape, it pairs well with storage, and that lends itself to opportunities as well,” Kapadia said.