Norway is finalising plans to open up two areas with combined capacity of up to 3.5GW off its southern coasts for offshore wind development.

The oil-rich Nordic country’s energy ministry said it would will send a proposal “before summer” for a public hearing regarding the Utsira North zone off the coast of Norway’s Rogaland region that would have a capacity of 500MW-1.5GW.

“Utsira North is suitable for floating wind power, which is the technology that is most expected,” oil & energy minister Kjell-Børge Freiberg said in a statement.

Waters at the Utsira zone are between 185 and 280 metres deep.

He added: “I would ask for input on whether we should also open the area ‘Southern North Sea II’, which is close to the territorial [maritime] border with Denmark, and therefore can be suitable for connection to the energy system on the continent.”

The Southern North Sea II zone could have 1-2GW in capacity, and would be apt for both floating or bottom-fixed offshore technology as water depths here range from 50 to 70 metres.

"There is more shallow water in the Southern North Sea-area, which makes it more suited for bottom-fixed installations," an energy ministry spokesman told Recharge.

The Norwegian government had included a strategy for floating wind power in its 2018 budget.

“Offshore wind power offers great opportunities for Norwegian companies. Norway can build on unique experience from the oil & gas industry, shipping, shipbuilding and renewable energy,” Freiberg said.

“The cost of wind power has fallen a lot, and it is likely that they will fall further.”

As part of the consultation, the energy ministry will also propose new regulation to be added to the country’s marine energy law, which provides further provisions on a future licensing process.

The country's first multi-unit floating wind project – Equinor's 88MW Hywind Tampen, which will use spar-based turbines to provide power to the ageing Snorre offshore oil & gas field – is closing in on a final investment decision “later this year,” an official at the Norwegian energy giant told Recharge in March .

Norway is home to world's first industrial-scale floating wind turbine, the Hywind Demo, now an R&D unit, and will see a prototype of the next-generation TetraSpar concept, being developed by Shell, Innogy and Stiesdal Offshore Technologies, moored off its west coast next year.

A study last year by power technology giant ABB and environmental lobby group Zero sketched out how Norway could have 3GW of offshore wind – much of it floating – in operation by 2030 using a“step-wise” strategy.

With additional reporting by Darius Snieckus

UPDATES to add that Southern North Sea II zone is apt for both floating and bottom-fixed offshore wind