General Electric has never hidden its intention to gobble up startups with promising technology in order to expand its business. The conglomerate followed through on that promise again on Monday with the announcement that its energy division has acquired ScanWind, a Norwegian developer of advanced drive train wind turbine technologies for offshore wind projects.
Financial details of the acquisition weren’t revealed, but the deal should boost GE’s position in the emerging offshore wind industry. GE is one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers with more than 12,000 of its turbines deployed at onshore installations globally. But onshore wind technology can’t be used for offshore applications without significant changes because of different environmental conditions and the need for larger turbines when offshore. That’s why GE currently only has one offshore installation, a 3.6 megawatt turbine at a demonstration facility off the coast of Arklow, Ireland.
ScanWind, founded in 1999, has 11 turbines operating on the Norwegian coast, and GE says its technology reduces maintenance costs and increases reliability, both important characteristics for offshore applications. “We think we can take our experience onshore with what we’ve learned at Arklow, take the technology from ScanWind, improve and enhance it, scale it, and roll out an offshore product,” Milissa Rocker, a spokeswoman for GE, told us. The company hopes to have its offshore wind turbines commercially available by late 2012 or early 2013, Rocker said.
GE is an important entrant in the offshore wind technology market. Offshore wind has been hampered by high costs, the recession, and NIMBY-ism, and a variety of big players have backed out of high-profile projects in recent years. But GE seems to be a big believer in the market, and notes in its release that offshore wind installations are expected to see a 20-fold global increase by 2020, to 30 GW, from an installed base of 1.5 GW in 2008.