Norway is investing NKr120 million ($13.5 million) in a new wind power research and development (R&D) centre, bringing together a 50-strong company and institution cluster including developers Equinor, Lundin Energy and Aker Offshore Wind, to help charge-up the sector in the Nordic nation.

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The NorthWind centre, which will focus chiefly on the offshore wind sector, will be led by the country’s national research institute, Sintef, and included partners the Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU), the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute and the University of Oslo, along with a who's-who of the domestic oil and gas industry.

'Great opportunities' - Bru

“Rapid growth in offshore wind power internationally offers great opportunities for Norwegian businesses. R&D is crucial to secure lower costs, less environmental impact and improved operating models for such projects,” Norway's Energy Minister Tina Bru said in announcing the investment.

“I believe a long-term research centre with industry partners, the research community and the government will contribute to further development of offshore wind power in Norway.”

Alexandra Bech Gjorv, chief executive of Sintef, said: "[NorthWind’s] innovations will benefit Norwegian industry and the world at large. Offshore wind has the potential to meet the world's electricity needs many times over and innovations cutting its costs will help bring this renewable energy to the market even faster."

NTNU rector Anne Borg highlighted that NorthWind would “draw on Norwegian research and industry's long-standing expertise in offshore oil & gas projects” and could provide “an important launching pad for students in the field aiming to become the experts of tomorrow".

A recent report calculated that the Norwegian offshore wind sector could blossom to rival its oil and gas supply chain by mid-century as a dynamic NKr85 billion market if the right policy levers are pulled by the Scandinavian country’s government, new research carried out for a large national industrial cluster has calculated.

The voting-through by the Norwegian parliament in June of a highly anticipated 4.5 gigawatt tender that opens up two areas in the country’s waters of floating and bottom-fixed wind arrays — to electrify ageing oil and gas complexes as well as producing direct-to-grid utility-scale power – looks like being a historic moment and is broadly seen as a leap forward for plans to build tens of gigawatts of sea-based wind capacity and kick-start the long-recognised multi-billion-kroner market for the nation’s industries.

The country will also have its first floating wind array, the 88 megawatt Hywind Tampen – which will be used to part-power the Snorre-Gullfaks offshore oil & gas complex, online in 2022.

And potentially, too, what could be the world's biggest floating wind turbine, the 10MW Flagship unit being advanced by a consortium led by Iberdrola.

The Norwegian industrial consensus on offshore wind has been growing for some time. In a report earlier this year from KonKraft – a cross-sector group made up of the Norwegian Oil & Gas Association, the Norwegian Shipowners Association, the Federation of Norwegian Industries and a number of the country’s unions – offshore and floating wind power were put together with carbon capture and storage and hydrogen at the heart of a plan to spearhead Norway’s energy transition towards “near zero” emissions levels by 2050.

Analyst group Aegir Insights calculates that as much as 3.4GW of offshore wind could be turning off Norway by the end of the decade but flagged but that permitting issues thrown up by stakeholders in several of the areas marked out earlier this year for development could “bottleneck” construction timelines.

(This article first appeared in Upstream's sister renewable energy publication Recharge on 11 December, 2020.)