Norwegian petroleum & energy minister Terje Aasland has said the slow-rolling licensing process for the 1.5GW deep water Utsira Nord (Utsira North) floating wind zone and the first 1.5GW of the shallower Southern North Sea 2 (Sørlige Nordsjø 2) acreage could be kicked off early in 2023.

The government earlier this year had said it first plans to hold a competitive tender for Southern North Sea, which is suitable for both fixed-bottom and floating wind, and at a later stage would allocate rights to Utsira North using 'qualitative criteria'.

But Aasland today at a collaboration forum for the coexistence of industry, fisheries and universities said he “hopes the licensing process for the Utsira Nord offshore wind zone can start by early next year, with permitting following in the [autumn] of next year,” a ministry spokesman confirmed to Recharge.

Aasland added that the tender for Southern North Sea 2 would be tackled on parallel tracks.

The minister’s comments on the approximate timing of the licensing rounds came after Norway last week boosted its offshore wind ambition by setting a 30GW target for 2040, way higher than the 4.5GW initially planned across the Southern North Sea and Utsira North zones.

The Nordic country has identified offshore wind as its largest renewable energy export, and is considering linking the Southern North Sea 2 to major markets such as Germany.

The planned capacities are huge considering the fact that Norway only has 5 million inhabitants.

Norway’s state-controlled oil & gas giant Equinor has been a pioneer in floating wind, and currently is building the 88MW Hywind Tampen array off Norway, which will be the world’s first floating wind array linked to an offshore oil & gas field once it is expected to be up and running later this year.

· Darius Snieckus contributed to this article