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Wind Energy as a Diverse Opportunity for Fossil Energy Producers

Actually, they are competitors, at least when it comes to generating electricity: the renewable energy sector has experienced a boom in recent years, while producers of fossil energy are increasingly falling behind. But now they are discovering new chances by investing in their competitors. A win-win situation.

Image: Katrin RadtkeImage: Katrin Radtke

British Columbia, Canada: Lead and zinc have been mined on the Sullivan mine for more than a century. But these times are over now. A contaminated site has been left, which is no longer habitable even after extensive clearing. But instead of letting the country lie waste, energy producer Teck had the idea to set up solar panels on the meadow, as CBC reports. Now, renewable energy is being produced there - and landowners and the city get a good deal out of it.

New hope for many areas

In many places, renewable energies offer the opportunity to use such contaminated areas sensibly in the future, because wind turbines or solar panels can be installed almost everywhere on the restored areas. They also ensure that the cleansing of the areas is refinanced and that they can be made into profit again in the future.

This business model has so far been quite new, but in Canada, which has mainly been derived from fossil resources, there are many regions where it brings new hope.

Up you go: wind energy technicians must not be afraid of heights (Image: Goldwind)

The Chinese want to use US workforce

A few thousand kilometers further south, the restructuring goes even further. Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Goldwind wants to recruit workers for the wind sector in the state of Wyoming. In particular, they are interested in former employees from the oil and gas sector. The company now offers them free trainings.

“We believe that folks that come from certain industries, fossil fuels, oil and gas, coal, they have skills that are transferrable to the wind industry,” David Halligan, CEO of Goldwind Americas told Casper Star-Tribune. “That’s why we’re offering the training and specifically why we are offering it in Wyoming.”

The main focus is on special skills, such as working on potential high-level hazards like heights handling electrical equipment. Skills that could soon disappear if the downturn in the oil and gas sector will continue. That's why it's necessary to act quickly in order to secure workers. Goldwind is convinced of this idea, as skilled workers are being sought in the wind industry.

Highly demanded: wind energy technicians

Wind technician is the fastest growing occupation in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within the next ten years an increase of 108 percent of jobs for wind technicians is expected.

“Not only do you need people out in the field that are troubleshooting if a part needs to get replaced, if they need to do routine maintenance, but then you have a whole logistics center,” Halligan says. “You need to keep parts on hand. You need administrative people, safety people, trainers. It’s just a complete infrastructure of full-time, well-paid jobs with benefits.”

Big corporations are searching for new business models

Jobs are also the issue in Europe, where most fossil fuel producers are now looking to renewables. Above all, offshore wind is the center of attention, because the massive scale of the projects is similar to those of natural gas or oil production in the North and Baltic Sea. Most large oil companies therefore also invest in this area.

Diversity is the key word. “The momentum behind these [renewable] technologies is unstoppable now,” Valentina Kretzschmar, director of research, tells the Guardian. She recently conducted a study for Wood Mackenzie on this subject.

Offshore innovation: Statoil is currently installing Hywind, the first floating offshore wind farm (Image: Statoil)

Large, larger, offshore

The Norwegian company Statoil is working on the first floating wind farm in the world at the moment, while Shell has announced to invest heavily in the offshore wind industry in the Netherlands in the coming years. The prospects in these areas are bright: analysts expect a growth of 6% for the wind sector and 11% for the solar sector, while oil is expected to grow by only 0.5%.

Energy utilities have experienced a similar development a few years ago – with the result that they are now among the largest developers of offshore wind farms, as the examples of Vattenfall or EnBW show. “They are recognising it is a megatrend; it’s not a fad, it’s not going away,” Kretzschmar says.

So, ultimately, there is only the chance to participate in this trend – which in turn is a win-win situation for all.

Katrin Radtke
offshore, wind, oil, gas, utility, mining

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