In 2009, Germany’s Alpha Ventus offshore wind test centre was commissioned, two years behind UK´s Beatrice demonstrator. Both projects were heavily laden with Norwegian content. The same year, Norway’s Statoil entered offshore wind via the Sheringham Shoal wind farm and moored Hywind 1, the world’s first industrial-scale floating wind turbine.
Led by companies such as Fred Olsen, which had moved early to order two installation vessels, the Brave Tern and Bold Tern, participation by Norwegian oil & gas (O&G) and maritime companies in the emerging offshore wind industry supply chain looked promisingly solid.
However, in 2010, Brent crude recovered from $35/barrel to $78/barrel and the interest in offshore wind as an alternative market for the Norwegian offshore oil & gas suppliers waned fast as oil prices climbed. For contrarian Norway, it was a time of milk and honey – cash flowed and Norwegian wages and house prices went through the roof while the rest of Europe suffered with the financial market after shocks. At more than $100/barrel, extremely lucrative contracts kept most of the Norwegian supply chain busy and away from offshore wind, though of course, with key exceptions, such as Statoil and Fred Olsen.
Nevertheless, since the oil price dive in 2013, there has been a massive revival of the interest in offshore wind. Late last year, Norwegian Energy Partners (NORWEP), with the help of BVG Associates, analysed the potential global marketplace for Norwegian offshore and maritime expertise in offshore wind. Many areas of cost efficiencies were identified and, according to our report, significant opportunities exist for Norwegian suppliers’ solutions to contribute to a robust and cost-efficient offshore wind build-out around the world.
While former O&G suppliers queue up to deliver to the bottom-fixed offshore wind industry, Statoil is also reporting that 30% of the contract value at Hywind Scotland was delivered by the Norwegian supply chain. Based on the crossover benefits of a historically strong position in floating production of O&G, there is the growing perception that we will soon be seeing a floating wind frenzy in the Norwegian industry.
A great deal has been made of Norwegian dependence on the O&G industry, but the Norwegian offshore suppliers have discovered the comfort of another commercial platform. Norway might be late to the table, but offshore suppliers are now ready to add industrial value in the offshore wind sector — fixed and floating, in Europe, Asia and the Americas. On that notion, Norwegian O&G engineering giant Aker Solutions recently beefed up its position with a strategic stake in Principle Power.
With more than 95% of Norwegian domestic power demand met by hydropower and a net power export position, the country’s government has been in no hurry to underwrite development of offshore wind power generation in our waters. However, politicians have noted the emerging industrial ambition of the offshore industry and wants to support the demonstration of offshore wind equipment. Signs are positive. The Norwegian licensing authorities have been told to earmark acreage based on the 2013 offshore wind strategic environmental assessment and the inclusion of the offshore wind-friendly liberal party, Venstre, in the governing coalition at the beginning of this year might speed things up.
There is the growing perception that we will soon be seeing a floating wind frenzy in the Norwegian industry.
I am convinced that we will soon see sites for floating wind — potentially linked to the power needs of the tail-end production of older oil fields — as well as development of fixed offshore wind projects along the Norwegian coast.
Of NORWEP’s 250 member companies from the whole offshore supply chain, more than 150 are developing offers to offshore wind. Given the renewed interest of the Norwegian offshore wind industry, further demonstration possibilities of Norwegian equipment and the demand for cost reductions in this fast-evolving sector, we strongly believe that Norwegian O&G expertise will add substantial value to the industry going forward.
While the Norwegian offshore oil industry is not quite ready to give up hydrocarbons, it is also deploying its expertise to the best effect in offshore wind. We are convinced that it will make an even bigger difference in the future.
Jon Dugstad is director of the wind and solar departments of Norwegian Energy Partners (NORWEP), a business development agency promoting both the country’s oil & gas and renewables sectors. NORWEP is holding its 9th Norwegian Offshore Wind Day on 8 March