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How Norway is leading the way in offshore wind

April 15, 2021
By The Explorer
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Hywind Scotland. Roar Lindefjeld/Wolcam/Equinor

Increasing offshore wind production is imperative if the world is to achieve its climate targets. Thanks to its maritime and offshore expertise, Norway is uniquely positioned to take a sizeable share of this rapidly growing market.

To reach climate neutrality, the European Commission estimates that European offshore wind must generate as much as 300 GW by 2050. Globally, the Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition sees 1 400 GW of offshore wind generation as a realistic target for 2050.

Today, installed offshore wind capacity totals approximately 29 GW worldwide. Thus, the offshore wind industry may see a fifty-fold growth over the next three decades.

The world needs rapid and comprehensive innovation, investment and expansion of offshore wind value chains and Norway has what it takes to get there, according to Arne Eik, offshore wind business development manager at Equinor.

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Arne Eik, Equinor

“In a nutshell, Norway’s advantage lies in its unique reservoir of experience, skills and knowledge related to building things at sea.”

“The technology and engineering behind offshore wind power has more in common with oil and gas platforms than with wind farms on land. Obviously there are differences between technologies and requirements for offshore wind compared to oil and gas, but in essence it’s about building and running big projects offshore, and everything that entails,” Eik says.

Offshore wind value chains built on offshore experience

Equinor is a global major in offshore wind with decades of experience in developing offshore energy. The company developed the world’s first floating wind turbine and is rapidly gaining ground in the fixed offshore wind market.

Like Equinor, other Norwegian companies and industrial clusters are leveraging their offshore expertise to position themselves in the global offshore wind market.

“There are a host of skills that are transferable from the offshore oil and gas industry to offshore wind: floating foundations for harsh environments, mooring, anchoring and anchor lines, geotechnical surveys, maintenance, service vessels and everything in between,” Eik points out.

“Norway has highly skilled contractors across the whole process from planning to building offshore wind facilities. The Norwegian offshore wind industry has the potential to be competitive across the whole value chain, with the exception of construction of turbines,” he says.

Knut Erik Steen is director of wind at Norwegian Energy Partners (NORWEP), an organisation promoting the internationalisation of the Norwegian energy industry. He explains how the breadth of Norwegian offshore expertise gives Norway a competitive edge.

“Norway hosts lots of equipment manufacturers, marine operators and service providers with excellent credentials in the fields of maritime and offshore installation and logistics. This includes companies like Axess, Cranemaster, DeepOcean, Kongstein and Norsea Group.”

“Furthermore, contractors and system integrators like Nexans, 4Subsea, Aibel and Aker Solutions are world class providers of cable systems and surveillance solutions for subsea installations.”

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Knut Erik Steen, NORWEP

“Within the offshore sector, Norway is internationally recognised as a leader in instrumentation, which is very applicable to the offshore wind market.”

“The Norwegian offshore industry was running digital twins before the word even existed, while also being at the forefront of lifetime extension of maritime equipment.”

“And you can add to that leading expertise in supporting vessels and maritime equipment for offshore operations, headed by companies like Ulstein, KONGSBERG and LMG Marin,” Steen says.

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The Windea Jules Verne service operation vessel for offshore wind farms.

Ulstein/Marius Ertesvåg

Norway: a pioneer in floating offshore wind

Making the most of these competitive advantages, Norway has truly been a pioneer in floating offshore wind. The world’s first floating wind turbine, Hywind Demo, was installed here in 2009. In 2017, Equinor opened Hywind Scotland, the world’s first full-fledged floating wind farm. Norway is also home to one of the world’s foremost testing facilities for floating wind solutions.

“These projects have had a significant impact on the Norwegian offshore wind value chain. Our research and testing ecosystems, based around NTNU, SINTEF, the University of Bergen and the Marine Energy Test Centre, are very strong, giving actors across the entire offshore wind value chain opportunities to develop, test and scale their solutions,” Eik of Equinor says.

“This work bears fruit. I think it’s wonderful that Olav Olsen’s FLAGSHIP project, for example, was recognised under the Horizon 2020 programme. If they succeed in their effort to make a cost-effective, scalable concrete-based foundation, this is likely to create global interest.”

As for Equinor, the company is building a material position within both the fixed and floating wind market. In the North Sea, the company is currently developing the world’s largest fixed-bottom offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank, and the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm, Hywind Tampen.

“Our ambition with Hywind Tampen is to reap the benefits of scaling floating wind solutions, which is key to driving down costs. Compared to our first Hywind Demo project, we have already seen a 70 per cent drop in CAPEX per MW in Hywind Scotland. We expect a further 40 per cent drop between Hywind Scotland and the 88MW Hywind Tampen,” he says.

While cementing its position as a leader in floating wind, Equinor is gaining ground in the fixed offshore wind segment as well.

“Through a joint venture with SSE Renewables and ENI, we are building the Dogger Bank wind farm, which will provide clean energy to 6 million homes in the UK. This makes it the world’s largest offshore wind farm of any type,” Eik says.

“We are also behind some of the most prestigious offshore wind projects in the US. Our goal is to be a leading company in the energy transition. As a global offshore wind major, we are building material offshore wind clusters in the US East Coast, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.”

Securing Norway’s leading position in floating wind

Norwegian companies have led the field in the floating offshore wind since its inception.

“For example, in building Hywind Scotland, 30 to 40 per cent all work was done by Norwegian contractors – and that is taking into account that none of the turbines were made here,” Eik says.

However, as the market grows and floating wind solutions scale up globally, other players will inevitably gain ground.

Nevertheless, Norway may very well maintain its leading position. A recent report by consultancy firm Menon Economics states that it is possible for Norway to achieve 20 per cent of the global floating wind market in 2050, particularly if the country introduces effective policy instruments and exploits its early-mover advantage.

“I don’t think a 20 per cent share of the floating wind market is unrealistic,” Eik says. “We’ve been working on floating offshore wind for more than 10 years and we see that significant cost reductions can be achieved through scale and experience, paving the way for floating wind to become fully commercialised.”