Norway aims for offshore wind power by 2030

Norway's government on Wednesday presented a plan to build a large-scale offshore wind power farm in the North Sea, saying it hopes to have the first turbines up by 2030.

An offshore windfarm in the UK.
Norway hopes to have its first North Sea wind turbines operational by 2030. Pictured is a windfarm in UK waters. Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

The Scandinavian country — the largest oil producer in Western Europe — will launch a public tender aimed at building the first phase of a wind project in the southern waters of the North Sea.

“This is about ensuring access to clean and cheap energy. This is a reminder of the situation we find ourselves in,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told a press conference, referring to high electricity prices in Europe.

With a capacity of 1,500 megawatts (MW), the first phase of the field, called Sorlige Nordsjo II, will be reserved for domestic consumption, with the government explicitly excluding the laying of cables for export — which the sector deemed as a necessary condition for profitability.

The field should cover the electricity consumption of 460,000 homes, and Støre said the first fixed-bottom turbines should be erected “in the second half” of the decade.

READ ALSO: Norway’s Sami population say wind farms threaten their livelihoods and ancestral traditions

Later, a second phase of the project, with a similar capacity, could be connected to the European continent, but this will depend on a study by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE).

The organisation representing the oil companies — often the same who are developers of wind power projects — Norwegian Oil and Gas, welcomed the “necessary clarifications” made by the government, but also criticised it for scaling down its ambitions by splitting the wind farm into two phases.

The government defended itself by saying that the split would speed up the start of the project.

Norwegian Oil and Gas also said it was “surprised” that it had not been heard on the need for a cable to the European continent, which it said would have enabled the project to go ahead without public subsidies.

 Another offshore farm with floating turbines is also planned in Norwegian waters in the North Sea, but no timetable has been provided for this project, called Utsira Nord and also intended for domestic consumption.

These wind projects had already been approved by the previous centre-right government but their implementation has been delayed.

A debate is ongoing in Norway on the advisability of connecting new wind power projects to the European grid, a choice which, according to critics, would have the effect of increasing prices for Norwegian consumers.

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Norwegian gas plant back in service after fire

Norway is Europe's second-biggest supplier of natural gas behind Russia and key to ensuring energetic autonomy for the continent. Its sole liquefied natural gas plant is operating once again after being ravaged by a fire in 2020.

Norwegian gas plant back in service after fire

Norway’s sole liquefied natural gas (LNG) unit has been restarted after a 2020 fire and will soon begin production, energy company Equinor said Friday, a move expected to help increase exports to Europe.

Norway is Europe’s second-biggest supplier of natural gas behind Russia.

Production at Equinor’s plant in Hammerfest in northern Norway, which makes it possible to deliver gas by ship in liquid form, is to help Europe cut its dependency on Russian gas after its invasion of Ukraine.

“We have completed the repair work on the plant, we have completed the testing… and we have now started the cool-down process,” Equinor spokesman Gisle Ledel Johannessen told AFP.

“It will take some time to finalise the cool-down process. The next step is to get the liquefied natural gas on the tanks”, he said.

Johannessen would not specify when that could happen, but said it was “a short time frame”.

The site, damaged in a September 2020 fire, produces almost 4.65 million tonnes of LNG per year, according to Equinor.

Norway announced steps in March to keep its gas production at maximum levels to help Europe reduce its Russian dependency.

Among other things, the Norwegian Petroleum and Energy Ministry agreed to adjust the production licences of three offshore fields so that they can prioritise gas production over oil.

But its exports have been squeezed by production capacities, already churning at maximum levels, and the distribution system via pipelines.

It is hoped the Hammerfest unit will make it possible to increase export volumes.

Norway covers between 20 and 25 percent of the European Union’s and Britain’s gas needs, while Russia currently supplies around 40 percent.