The renewables chief at Norwegian oil & gas group Equinor said the world’s biggest offshore wind farm it’s building off eastern England could be just the start of a renewable mega-hub with potential for more than 20GW of power production in the North Sea – enough to supply one third of UK electricity demand.
Scoping work by Equinor, which is co-developing the first 3.6GW at Dogger Bank in partnership with UK utility SSE after winning a British government power deal last year, suggests “the total potential in the broader Dogger Bank area can be multiplied by a factor of six”, said Pål Eitrheim, executive vice president for New Energy Solutions at Equinor. “We see Dogger Bank as a strategic power hub.”
The Equinor/SSE Dogger Bank development, along with another underway in the area by Innogy, are already set to make Dogger Bank a massive source of renewable power for the UK from the mid-2020s, but Eitrheim indicated the Norwegian group’s interest in the area won’t stop there.
“When our people look at the total wind resources, there is much more potential in that area than the 3.6GW that we are going to develop today in terms of technical wind resources,” Eitrheim told Recharge on the sidelines of Equinor’s annual capital markets update to investors in London.
“We’ve highlighted that the North Sea region in general and the UK in particular is going to be a core area for us. Clearly, we’re interested in strengthening our portfolio in the UK, including in the Dogger Bank area, but also Sheringham and Dudgeon [Equinor’s operational wind farms elsewhere off eastern England].”
“We will be an active part of future [UK] contract-for-difference and lease rounds.”
Dogger Bank is one of the areas earmarked for leasing for further development under the Round 4 process underway by UK seabed landlord the Crown Estate, while the wider sandbank has been mooted as a focus for ‘artificial islands’ and other plans to interconnect European offshore wind.
Dogger Bank will be built around some 300 of GE Renewable Energy’s recording-holding 12MW Haliade-X turbines, following an award to the US OEM last October. Several other major contracts for the project have gone out in recent months, including for installation of the turbines, to marine contractor Jan De Nul, and for a pair of HVDC converter stations, being delivered by Norway’s Aibel.
Dogger Bank will transport the offshore wind sector into the global energy big league, at a development sticker price of around $10bn rivalling the biggest oil & gas projects now taking shape and providing a life-line for a supply chain struggling to make ends meet as the world shifts power sources in the energy transition.
Eitrheim referenced Dogger Bank’s wider potential as he set out how major offshore wind clusters will be a central part of Equinor’s strategy as it pursues its ambition to be an “offshore wind major” with up to 16GW of renewables installed by 2035.
Equinor, which is majority-owned by the Norwegian government, is also active in US offshore wind, where its Empire State project has already won a tender in New York.
Beyond its fixed-bottom offshore wind plans, Eitrheim said Equinor sees floating wind power, where the group is a technological pioneer through its Hywind Scotland, and Hywind Tampen arrays, as a “gateway to Asia”.
“It is very much a question of when, not if, floating will be developed at scale,” he said.
While the focus of Equinor, which is majority-owned by the Norwegian government, will mostly be offshore, it will look at strategic onshore opportunities in selected markets, said Eitrheim, citing a strategic investment in solar developer Scatec and potential synergies between onshore renewables and gas in Brazil.