Spotlight on Electrification Pioneers: Vestas

Morten Dyrholm, Head of Marketing, Communications and Public Affairs, talks about the role of storage solutions on the global transition to a renewable energy future. Vestas

What role do you think renewables will have on the global employment market in the future?

We already have more than 10 million jobs created in the renewable industry, according to IRENA. In more and more markets, renewable energy jobs are vastly outpacing fossil fuel jobs. Take the United States for instance, where there is so much talk about coal jobs: in reality, today there are already more jobs in the wind sector than in the coal sector.

Employment is already attracting investments in the renewable industry. It’s a trend that is set to continue with the ever-expanding integration of renewables into the system. There is this misconception that shifting from fossil fuels to renewables is somehow in contrast with the economic growth. It’s the contrary. You can have a green economy and grow at the same time. I think our sector has now proven it on several occasions.

When it comes to employment, do you see any significant growth in the wind sector?

I see massive growth in the wind sector. I just came back from India where our industry created two million jobs, both directly and indirectly. With the pace of installations in India and with the targets they have, the employment rate will only go up.

I see massive opportunities both in the manufacturing and in the service side where help is needed to run wind farms. You need service technicians for instance, and these are long lasting local jobs. So yes, I definitively see considerable growth potential in the wind sector.

What will be the impact of storage solutions in the future of renewable energy?

I think the storage solution is almost like the holy grail of our industry. We kept reading and hearing about storage unit technologies and when they would start having a major impact on our sector, and now it’s happening. It’s an incredible time to be a part of the renewable energy sector because storage right now is coming in on a massive scale and not just in battery technologies. All kinds of different storage technologies and solutions are being developed.

We see already massive storage systems in use, like the 130 megawatts battery storage system in Australia. We are on the cusp of this revolution where we are getting used to talking about renewable electricity as the baseload electricity: it’s a fundamental change, it’s not just an incremental step. It’s a complete revamp of the way we think of ourselves as renewable energy companies.

It’s ushering us into a new era. I have been in this sector for many years, and we had to fight for people to understand that we are the most cost-effective and affordable electricity generation out there. The fossil fuel sector has continuously been claiming that we are too expensive and not reliable, but we have already taken away that argument and are proving we can beat fossil fuels on market terms. The only argument the fossil fuel companies have left is that renewables are not reliable and are intermittent, and therefore baseload coal and gas generators are needed to stabilize the system. Now with storage coming in, we are taking the last argument away from them.

That is a revolution in many senses. It points to a future where the entire energy sector can be run on just renewables. Being able to say that, with credibility, is what the storage argument is giving us. Storage is a fundamental part of us moving to a fully renewable-based system.

Vestas is developing many projects around the world – is there one you are particularly excited about?

There are many projects we are excited about. Like the Kennedy project in Australia, the world’s first utility-scale hybrid project combining wind, solar, and battery storage. We have traditionally seen ourselves as a company that produces and installs turbines, and here we are now at a point where we are setting up hybrids that have capacity factors way beyond just traditional wind projects. It’s part of what I was saying before, a proof of concept that we can provide something that resembles baseload electricity from other sources.

Our Lake Turkana project – in Kenya – is the largest wind project in Africa, with over 300 megawatts. It will provide around 15% of all the country’s electricity. It’s finally up and running, and it’s a real landmark project as it shows that we can build large renewable power plants even in Kenya.

What kind of impact do you think Vestas’ partnership with Northvolt will have in the takeoff of renewables in Europe?

We are really pleased to be partnered with Northvolt. I think the collaboration and the innovation we get out of this partnership is going to be massive.

It’s a signal that as a wind turbine company we care about how we best integrate our products into the overall energy system – into the grid. It is an important partnership, a visible sign where we, as a company, are heading.