How California and Norway can collaborate to Build the Future of Offshore Wind Industry

Equinor floating offshore wind turbine in coastal setting with offshore vessel in the distance. Credit: Equinor / Øyvind Gravås

Increasing offshore wind production is imperative if the world is to achieve its climate targets. Thanks to its maritime and offshore expertise, Norway is uniquely positioned to take a sizable share of this rapidly growing market.

To reach climate neutrality, the European Commission estimates that European offshore wind must generate as much as 300 GW by 2050. Globally, the Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition sees 1,400 GW of offshore wind generation as a realistic target for 2050. However, in California, where there is tremendous wind resource, there is not yet a target in place.

That being said, California has ambitious climate goals outlined in “The 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018”(SB 100) to have 100% clean electricity by 2045. Offshore wind is seen as complementary to solar and alleviates the “duck curve” due to its generation profile, with wind increasing in late afternoon and evening. There’s great development potential and interest in California: the wind resource potential is 1.5 times the state’s annual electricity use and developers have expressed interest in federal leases since 2016, but Navy spatial conflicts have delayed development. With the Biden Administration’s recent announcement to jumpstart the US offshore wind industry with a 30 GW by 2030 goal, there is hope that federal barriers to offshore wind development in California will be allayed.

Analysts project California’s market could be upwards of 21 GW by 2045. These estimates are now considered conservative given the Governor’s September 2020 Executive Order phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035, which will result in higher load profiles for the state. Based on conservative market growth estimates (18 GW by 2045) it is projected that over 17,500 jobs could be created in the state and thus has great potential for post-covid economic recovery. Assembly Member Chiu (D-San Francisco), proposed a bill to set an offshore wind planning target, which has been postponed by the energy committee chair due to objections over a production target.

One of the complexities in getting offshore wind of the ‘ocean’ is that California’s coast line is deep water, necessitating floating offshore technology.

Norwegian offshore wind value chains built on offshore experience

Norway’s advantage lies in its unique reservoir of experience, skills and knowledge related to building things at sea as offshore wind power has more in common with oil and gas platforms than with wind farms on land.

Equinor is a global major in offshore wind farm with decades of experience in developing offshore energy. The company developed the world’s first floating wind turbine and is rapidly gaining ground in the fixed offshore wind market.

Like Equinor, other Norwegian companies and industrial clusters are leveraging their offshore expertise to position themselves in the global offshore wind market. There are a host of skills that are transferable from the offshore oil and gas industry to offshore wind: floating foundations for harsh environments, mooring, anchoring and anchor lines, geotechnical surveys, maintenance, service vessels and everything in between.

Knut Erik Steen is director of wind at Norwegian Energy Partners (NORWEP), an organization promoting the internationalization of the Norwegian energy industry. He explains how the breadth of Norwegian offshore expertise gives Norway a competitive edge.

“Norway hosts lots of equipment manufacturers, marine operators and service providers with excellent credentials in the fields of maritime and offshore installation and logistics. This includes companies like Axess, Cranemaster, DeepOcean, Kongstein and Norsea Group.”

“Furthermore, contractors and system integrators like Nexans, 4Subsea, Aibel and Aker Solutions are world class providers of cable systems and surveillance solutions for subsea installations. The Norwegian offshore industry was running digital twins before the word even existed, while also being at the forefront of lifetime extension of maritime equipment.”

“And you can add to that leading expertise in supporting vessels and maritime equipment for offshore operations, headed by companies like Ulstein, KONGSBERG and LMG Marin,” Steen says.

Norway: a pioneer in floating offshore wind

Making the most of these competitive advantages, Norway has truly been a pioneer in floating offshore wind. The world’s first floating wind turbine, Hywind Demo, was installed here in 2009. In 2017, Equinor opened Hywind Scotland, the world’s first full-fledged floating wind farm. Norway is also home to one of the world’s foremost testing facilities for floating wind solutions.

These projects have had a significant impact on the Norwegian offshore wind value chain. Our research and testing ecosystems, based around NTNU, SINTEF, the University of Bergen and the Marine Energy Test Centre, are very strong, giving actors across the entire offshore wind value chain opportunities to develop, test and scale their solutions.

Securing Norway’s leading position in floating wind

Norway does not actually need offshore wind farms for power — as nearly all its electricity comes from sustainable hydropower. It is however looking to open export markets for renewable wind power as well as transition its oil & gas industry to secure a low-carbon export for the future. The government has earmarked two areas in the North Sea for up to 4.5 gigawatts of floating and bottom-fixed wind turbine capacity.

Abroad, Norwegian companies have led the field in the floating offshore wind since its inception. Nevertheless, Norway may very well maintain its leading position. A recent report by consultancy firm Menon Economics states that it is possible for Norway to achieve 20 per cent of the global floating wind market in 2050, particularly if the country introduces effective policy instruments and exploits its early-mover advantage.

Norway in California

Norwegian companies have made strides in California to help establish the market.

The Redwood Coast Energy Authority along with a consortium that includes Principle Power, EDPR Offshore North America (now Ocean Winds), and Aker Solutions (now Aker Offshore Wind) has submitted a lease application to BOEM to advance a 150MW development of a floating offshore windfarm off the coast of Eureka. In 2020, Aker Solutions and Cognite were awarded a USD 2 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) for a project focused on next-generation solutions in wind through digitalization, which aims to develop a holistic digital solution to enable monitoring OSW floating farm conditions and related environmental impacts.

On the East Coast, Equinor has established itself as an important player to watch with increasing experience in the US markets. And Equinor,along with Aker Solutions (now Aker Offshore Wind) and other founding members, created the non-profit Offshore Wind California established in 2019 to provide industry expertise, innovative solutions, and a dedicated voice in California for offshore wind.

Norway hopes that its offshore energy companies will realize their Californian dreams and the market will soon open for offshore wind which will herald a new green economy, with family-wage jobs and the opportunity to shave the “duck curve” for the benefit of all Californians.

To encourage international collaboration between the two coastal regions, the Crown Prince Haakon of Norway will virtually visit San Francisco on April 27 and 28. The royal visit will focus on the potential for renewable energy sources, like offshore wind, investments and financing of sustainable societies, and green businesses of the future. Learn more about the visit and register here.

Director, Invest in Norway, North America at Innovation Norway

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store