Norwegian oil major Equinor has signed a collaboration agreement with the Eni-led Vargronn joint venture to jointly bid in a tender for a floating wind array at Utsira North in the Norwegian North Sea.

The Vargroon JV, which also includes Norwegian energy investor Hitec Vision, already stated its intention to bid in the tendering round when it was formed in November 2020.

“We are excited to enter into a partnership with Equinor on floating offshore wind, contributing to the continued development of Norway as a leading energy nation,” said Vargronn chief executive Olav Hetland.

“This project will be an essential part of our ambition to own and operate 1GW installed capacity by 2030.

“Developing a home market for offshore wind power, particularly floating, will be important for developing the Norwegian offshore wind supply industry, and positioning new technologies for a growing global market.”

HitecVision and Eni have also previously worked together in independent oil and gas company Var Energi.

Some of the world's best wind resources

Norway’s petroleum and energy ministry has recently opened up two areas for offshore renewables – Utsira North and Southern North Sea 2 (Sorlige Nordsjo 2) - and authorities are currently working on the licensing process for Norwegian offshore wind projects.

The two offshore zones could jointly host floating and bottom-fixed offshore wind developments of up to 4.5 gigawatts in capacity.

“The North Sea has some of the world’s best wind resources. A floating offshore wind farm at Utsira North could be the next project at scale to drive industrialisation of floating offshore wind and create new opportunities for Norwegian industry,” said Equinor New Energy Solutions president Pal Eitrheim.

“As the leading floating offshore wind developer Equinor has the experience and capabilities necessary to develop the next full-scale floating offshore wind farm in Norway after Hywind Tampen.”

Equinor is still awaiting information from Norwegian authorities on the process and framework for offshore wind developments going forward, and thus could not tell what size the Utsira North project will have exactly, when contacted by Upstream's sister publication Recharge.

"To drive industrialisation through scale for floating wind, we believe that the capacity for the next floating offshore wind projects should be between 300 – 500 MW," a company press official said.

Equinor expanding offshore wind footprint

Equinor is currently building the semi-commercial 88MW Hywind Tampen floating array off Norway that is slated to part-power oil & gas operations.

Eitrheim, in an interview with Upstream's sister publication Recharge this week, also showed enthusiasm for the 230-270MW French floating wind tender off Brittany, although he declined to reveal if Equinor was participating in it.

Equinor and Eni area already partners in the giant Dogger Bank development under construction in the UK part of the North Sea, which once completed will be the world’s biggest wind farm at sea with 3.6GW.

(This article first appeared in Upstream's sister renewable energy publication Recharge on 6 May, 2021.)