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Renewable energy projects create strong tailwind for US steel demand

Highlights

Wind turbines growing in size, require more steel

Solar, wind provide energy solutions for steel plants

Upcoming investments in renewable energy projects in the US, particularly offshore wind farms, represent a bullish opportunity for the region's steel sector, according to industry executives.

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"There are many offshore wind projects underway that are coming so that demand is exciting for us as a company and as an industry, because it is a growing segment," Brian Bishop, Cleveland-Cliffs senior vice president-commercial, said during a forum hosted by the Association for Iron and Steel Technology July 1.

Bishop said US investments in offshore wind power are rising as the country seeks to catch up with Europe in the industry, and the turbines and related infrastructure require multiple forms of steel.

"Cleveland-Cliffs has the plate to supply them as a lot of these towers are plate intensive, and we have the electrical steels for the turbines themselves and then for the distribution that will be associated with getting that power to market," he said. "For all those reasons, we are pretty excited about that growth opportunity that is coming here to the US."

SSAB Chief Commercial Officer Jeffery Moskaluk said wind towers have become larger in size over the past decade with advances in technology, thus driving higher steel consumption in their construction.

"Onshore wind towers have gone from maybe requiring 100 or 110 tons of steel per tower to now the bigger towers which have a higher reach and can require a couple hundred tons per tower," Moskaluk said. "Then you get to offshore, and they are monstrous."

SSAB's Iowa operations have supplied steel for windmills in the state that, in turn, generate power used by the plant, he added.

For solar power, Steel Dynamics manufactures specific beams and tubing steel that are needed to mount panel units and cells, according to Barry Schneider, senior vice president of Steel Dynamics' flat roll steel group. New innovations in the solar industry continue to necessitate greater quantities of specialty steel products, he added.

"The demands include higher strength tubing, lighter weight, and more solar cells per piece of tube so that industry is really going through its growth cycle," Schneider said. "We see it as a good investment — it's not a fad."

Schneider said solar operations also provide opportunities to power SDI's new plant in Sinton, Texas.