Norway Wind Power Law

Norwegian Wind Power Set for Policy Boost

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted July 3, 2009

Norway's last Oil and Energy Minister said her country could become "Europe's battery."

Now, Norway's new power chief is joining with the country's parliament to make the non-EU country a key component in continental renewable energy goals.

"Offshore wind energy may become the next adventure for the Norwegian industry and energy sector," Terje Riis-Johansen observed. As the world's #6 oil exporter and a key source of western European natural gas, Norwegians could play possum when it comes to overhauling the Scandinavian country's energy infrastructure.

Instead, officials in Oslo are aiming to make the country a hub of northern European offshore wind power activity.

Between Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems to the south, Scotland's joint wind farm projects led by Talisman Energy (NYSE:TLM) and ScottishPower to the west, and shipbuilding companies like Finland's Rautarukki now coming from the east with the goal of shifting shipbuilding operations into wind turbine tower production, Norway is at the heart of a transformational cold-water economy.

And the clean energy initiatives are coming from all over...

Norwegian oil and gas champion StatoilHydro (NYSE:STO) has teamed up with German infrastructure giant Siemens (NYSE:SI) to build the first floating wind turbines for deepwater use.

With centers of gravity deep below the surface and moorings tied to the seabed, these rigs would go farther offshore than any pylon-based wind turbine could. The first application for such a far-flung power generation system would actually be to help power oil and gas rigs that sit atop the North Sea's dwindling petroleum reserves.

And with Norway straddling the line between old North Sea energy and the new wave, legislators want to codify goals for getting a new industry off the ground and into the water.

With about $45 billion dollars in investment, Norway could build enough 5000-8000 megawatt wind power arrays to equal the output of 8 nuclear power plants.

The European Union, of which Norway is not a member, has set the goal of achieving a 20% renewable energy contribution to the EU's electricity generation by 2020. If Norway can harness its significant wind energy resources to deliver up to 40 terrawatt hours per year, it will also generate significant revenue from European customers to offset declining fossil fuel revenue.

Companies like Siemens and ABB (NYSE:ABB) are already hard at work addressing questions of transmission from offshore wind farms to onshore utilities, which of course presents a challenge of both minimizing loss and providing storage systems for off-peak generation times.

But the political will—for decades the missing component in Norwegian wind power—is now prominent. 

Now let's see what the Norwegians do for themselves and the worldwide viability of offshore wind power when they put the money where their mouths are.

-Sam Hopkins