BOSTON — After facing existential threat under a pending lawsuit between two major wind turbine manufacturers, the Vineyard Wind I project may continue as planned if a federal judge agrees to a proposed judgment.
Nearly two years ago, a Danish renewable energy corporation, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE), sued General Electric — the turbine supplier for the Vineyard Wind I project — for patent infringement. A jury in June found GE infringed on a SGRE patent for turbine technology.
SGRE was previously seeking a permanent injunction that would preclude GE and its subsidiaries from “making, using, offering for sale, selling, importing (into), or installing in the United States (including its continental shelf)” any of the Haliade-X turbines, the type Vineyard Wind is set to use.
However, in a proposed judgment filed by SGRE late Thursday night, SGRE is proposing an exception to that prohibition that would preserve GE’s supplier agreement to sell the 62 turbines to Vineyard Wind for its project, set to begin construction at sea next year.
“This permanent injunction shall not prevent the Enjoined Parties from making (e.g., manufacturing and assembling), using (e.g., installing, operating, repairing, maintaining, servicing, and replacing), or importing 62 (sixty-two) infringing Haliade-X turbines for the Vineyard Wind 1 Offshore Energy Project in accordance with the Turbine Supply Agreement and/or the Service and Maintenance Agreement between GE and Vineyard Wind 1, LLC, both dated June 4, 2021,” the filing states under SGRE’s proposal.
GE in a brief filed on the proposed judgment argued that there is no justification for SGRE restricting the number of turbines to 62 for the Vineyard Wind I project as it would “needlessly restrict Vineyard Wind’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances, regulations, and requirements.”
SGRE is still proposing a permanent injunction for any other use of the Haliade-X turbine until the patent expires in 2034, arguing it would suffer irreparable injury otherwise.
Per the latest filing, both SGRE and GE agreed that GE and its subsidiaries be permanently prohibited through June of 2034 from making or selling the infringed turbines — though only SGRE names the Haliade-X — but with disparate exceptions.
SGRE proposed only Vineyard Wind be excluded from the injunction; GE proposed both Vineyard Wind and Ocean Wind, a project planned off the New Jersey coast, be excluded and thus allowed to use the Haliade-X turbines.
David Hardy, the CEO and president of Orsted North America, submitted a statement to the court last week, stating it would be hard to justify proceeding with the Ocean Wind project if the Haliade-X turbines could not be used as it would cause delays of two to three years.
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Ocean Wind entered a turbine supply agreement with GE in December of 2020 to use the Haliade-X turbines for its 1,100-megawatt project, per the latest case filing.
According to its website, the Ocean Wind project is several years out from completion. In contrast, Vineyard Wind I is set to be constructed offshore starting next year.
Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Skoust Moeller last week filed a statement with the court, stating the project would not be built if it could not go forward with its agreed upon GE turbines.
“If the court issued such an injunction, the project would collapse,” wrote Moeller, noting it would take years to change the turbine supplier and redesign, recertify and re-contract the project.
Close to $1 billion has been spent to date on the Vineyard Wind I project, and Vineyard Wind has already paid GE at least $150 million, according to a memo filed Friday by SGRE.
GE’s turbine parts are scheduled to land in the Port of New Bedford in 2023 at MassCEC’s Marine Commerce Terminal. There, the massive pieces will be partially assembled and loaded onto a barge, which will pass through the New Bedford-Fairhaven Hurricane Barrier and travel to the lease site.
Another wind project, Mayflower Wind, is scheduled to use the terminal right after Vineyard Wind, so any delays to the project could affect those lease agreements.
The $3.5-billion project is designed to use 62 13-MW turbines that will stand approximately 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. It’s scheduled to begin delivering electricity to Massachusetts next summer.
Vineyard Wind I is a small part of President Joe Biden’s goal of generating 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2030 to address climate change, which he said was “code red for humanity” while addressing a crowd in Somerset last month.
The Vineyard Wind I project would contribute 0.8 GW toward that goal with the Haliade-X turbines.
Both parties agreed in the proposed judgment that GE pay a royalty rate of $30,000 per megawatt of the infringed turbines, which would total about $24 million for the Vineyard Wind I project.
At the bottom of the filing are two empty lines for the date and the signature of the federal judge. This proposed final judgment, which includes a permanent injunction, ultimately needs to be approved by the judge.
Undercurrent News reported the judge gave both parties until Aug. 4 to reach an agreement before he is forced to issue a verdict.
A Vineyard Wind spokesperson declined comment due to the pending litigation.
A SGRE spokesperson said a permanent injunction is a reasonable outcome, but did not have further comment on the recent filing.
“A permanent injunction against GE’s products that infringe Siemens Gamesa’s intellectual property is a reasonable and fair remedy in this case,” said a Siemens Gamesa spokesperson in an email to The Light on Thursday afternoon. “Since GE began launching patent lawsuits against Siemens Gamesa in 2020, GE has had multiple opportunities to resolve the parties’ disputes. GE elected not to do so.”
A GE Renewable Energy spokesperson said by email before Thursday’s filing that the company will not comment on ongoing litigation.
Email Anastasia E. Lennon at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This story was updated late Thursday night, Aug. 4, 2022, after the proposed judgment was filed in U.S. District Court. It was updated again on Aug. 5, 2022, to include additional details from overnight filings in federal court.
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