Winds of Change
David Hardy ’97 leads the charge to meet U.S. wind energy goals.
By Steve Neumann
In March 2021, the Biden administration announced an ambitious goal — provide enough energy from offshore wind turbines in U.S. waters by 2030 to power 10 million homes. As an executive with a global wind energy company, David Hardy ’97 is ready to help make that happen.
Hardy is the CEO of U.S. operations for Ørsted, the world’s leader in offshore wind energy development. The Danish company runs the first offshore wind farm in the United States — a five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm off Rhode Island. It also built a two-turbine demonstration facility off Virginia last year. But the company is poised to erect more energy-generating turbines off the Atlantic coast.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize how big this could be,” says Hardy, who was featured on ABC News and in The Washington Post this spring. “Thousands of construction, manufacturing, installation and other infrastructure jobs are going to be created.”
Hardy acknowledges that meeting the Biden administration’s goals will be a tall order. For decades, the offshore wind industry has struggled to gain a foothold in U.S. waters, thanks to high costs, limited state and federal support, and opposition from shorefront communities that fear turbines would spoil their beachfront views.
“The first wind farms that were built 10 years ago or longer were much closer to shore, so the visual impact was much more,” says Hardy. “Ours are a minimum of 15 miles offshore so they’re only a couple centimeters on the horizon on a clear day — and two thirds of the year, you can’t see them at all.”
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates there are more than 2,000 gigawatts worth of power blowing off the coasts, where winds tend to be stronger and more reliable than on land. That’s nearly double the nation’s current electricity-generating capacity. For context, one gigawatt powers about 500,000 homes. To date, Ørsted has secured over 3,000 megawatts of additional capacity through five projects in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Hardy, who lives in Newton, Mass., worked with nuclear submarines in the Navy before coming to NC State. He began his career on a fast-track leadership program at General Electric. But after the tumult of the Great Recession of 2007 – 2008, Hardy began to do some soul-searching. “I really wanted to find something that has more purpose and that I would be passionate about,” he says. “I wanted to do something that was good for the world.”
Ørsted was the first European offshore wind developer to enter the U.S. market. As CEO, Hardy — who has been working as a wind energy executive for the last 11 years — oversees all of Ørsted’s North American offshore wind activities, including development and operations for the company’s current and future portfolio of U.S. projects. “I knew,” says Hardy, “that offshore wind was the next phase of the renewable energy cycle.”