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Statoil, the Norwegian oil and gas giant, is considering taking a major role in wind power. The state-owned energy company said July 7 that it will decide in September whether to invest in a floating wind farm off the east coast of Scotland.
The company, based in Stavanger, is already experimenting with alternative energy technology, having experimented with a floating wind turbine off Norway. Now it’s considering a farm made up of five 6-megawatt turbines off Aberdeen in a part of the North Sea where the water is about 100 meters deep.
Wind energy has met some stiff popular resistance, with many people objecting to their marring of rural landscapes. Even offshore turbines that are fixed to foundations have met opposition because they’re restricted to waters of no more than 50 meters deep and thus tend to be near the shore and visible to those on land.
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As a result, Statoil is exploring the possibility of using floating turbines farther out to sea to avoid the negative visual impact. “[T]his could be the first floating wind power park in the world,” Statoil spokesman Morten Eek said in Oslo.
If the company decides to build the floating wind farm off Aberdeen, the project would include turbines manufactured by the German company Siemens. Its turbines would include blades fully 75 meters long in order to make the most efficient use of the North Sea winds.
Eek pointed to the single floating turbine that Statoil already has been operating off Hywind, Norway, since 2009. It is mounted on a weighted vertical steel cylinder, is anchored to the sea floor below and uses a navigation system designed by Statoil to remain in position.
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“We’ve seen that the technology is working and is able to withstand winter storms,” Eek said. “We see potential in the Hywind concept to compete cost-wise with the bottom-fixed foundation at 30 meters water depth and deeper.”
The floating wind farm could be the first project for a separate division that Statoil established in May to add low-carbon and renewable technology to its energy menu. Eek said the company also is exploring the possibility of building a similar floating wind farm off the coast of Japan.
Norway isn’t the only country in Europe interested in the potential of floating wind farms. The French government is seeking investors for several pilot farms, according to Matthieu Monnier, the director of offshore wind projects at France Energie Eolienne (FEE), an industry trade group.
Monnier said he expected the project would lead to the construction of two or even three floating wind farms with capacities ranging from 16 to 60 megawatts each, adding up to a total capacity of between 100 megawatts and 120 megawatts.
This is just some of the interest that countries and even oil companies have shown in wind energy. Like Norway, Portugal has been experimenting with floating turbines, and now is planning a wind demonstration farm with a capacity of 25 megawatts.
By Andy Tully Of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com