About time: Offshore wind set to take off in Norway

By Michael Rogers

World’s first afloat – Hywind DEMO outside Karmøy, Norway (photo: Equinor/Øyvind Hagen)
World’s first afloat – Hywind DEMO outside Karmøy, Norway (photo: Equinor/Øyvind Hagen)

Although Norway’s largest renewables export is expertise and technology for offshore wind, there’s only been one domestic offshore wind turbine project to date – Equinor’s Hywind DEMO. The demo, which was the world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine, has been producing power since 2009.

Norway already has a good number of producing on-shore wind farms, but with recent news from the government, we may see full offshore developments underway within a few years.

Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) has recently proposed to open the Utsira Nord and Sandskallen-Sørøya Nord areas in the southwest for offshore renewables. The ministry also begun the process of seeking input on whether the area Sørlige Nordsjø II in the Barents Sea should be opened.

It stands to reason that Equinor will be among the first to apply to develop wind farms in one of more of these acreages. As the operator of three wind farms in offshore UK – Sheringham Shoal, Dudgeon and Hywind Scotland – Equinor has overseen power production since 2011. Equinor is also present in Germany as operator of the newly online ARKONA wind farm, as well as working to develop Dogger Bank in the UK and Empire Wind in the USA.

Incentives and support
One important conclusion the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2018was that it will be the governments who determine our “energy destiny” – this being particularly so for encouraging the development of renewable energy sources.

Norway has done much to support innovation development in the energy sector. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy along with The Research Council of Norway have worked together in support for the oil and gas industry’s research and development, sponsoring programmes such as PETROMAKS and Demo2000. And in 2008, they kicked off Energi21, Norwegian national strategy for research, development, demonstration and commercialisation of new, climate-friendly energy technologies.

Thinking incentives, Norway’s electricity certificate scheme aims to increase electricity production based on renewable energy sources by 28.4 TWh by 2020 (MPE’s Energy Facts Norway).

Equinor and other renewable energy exporting Norwegian companies have used to good advantage similar incentives in their developments abroad. The UK has been strongly supporting wind farm operations, accelerating developments such as Equinor’s wind farms. Another Norwegian renewable expertise exporter is Scatec Solar, a solar power developer. In Ukraine alone, Scatec Solar has 336 MW under construction and 69 MW of project backlog, compared to an impressive 844 MW in operation and 1,070 MW under construction globally. Scatec Solar’s success in Ukraine in part is the result of the Feed-in Tariff, in which a guaranteed buyer is obliged to buy the electricity generated by renewable energy plants at “green tariff” rates.

So, Norway’s incentives are, for the most part, in line with others’ programmes around the world. Although it’s far too early to say if these will provide enough entice renewable developers from abroad to take part in Norway’s offshore wind opportunities, it’s likely that the government is already considering additional incentives.

Perhaps the Norwegian government could apply lessons learned from its own popular incentive programme for the oil and gas industry – the reimbursement system for exploration costs. An innovative programme to help offset development costs could go a long way to ensuring a thriving, successful offshore wind industry – which in turn would produce even more power to include in Norway’s export basket.