Statoil launches world's first floating wind farm, aims to cut costs

OSLO/LONDON (Reuters) - Norway’s Statoil expects floating wind power costs to fall to 40-60 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh) by 2030, the company said on Wednesday after launching the first floating wind farm off Scotland.

Norwegian oil company's Statoil logo is seen at their headquarters in Fornebu, Norway, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

The 2-billion-crown ($251.34 million) pilot project will generate power at a cost of nearly 190 pounds ($250.12) per megawatt-hour (MWh), four times the current UK market price.

“Statoil has an ambition to reduce the costs of energy from the Hywind floating wind farm to around 40-60 euros ($47-70) per MWh by 2030,” said Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president of Statoil’s New Energy Solutions business area.

The 30-megawatt-(MW)-capacity project has been granted support under Britain’s Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme, totaling 3.5 ROCs or around 140 pounds per MWh at the current ROC price of 40 pounds/MWh.

On top of that, the project gets UK power market prices, which were trading at around 47.5 pounds ($62.53) per MWh on Wednesday.

While the technology relies heavily on subsidies, it opens up new areas for offshore wind power that previously has not been accessible because of the water depths.

Hywind wind turbines, anchored to the seabed, could be built in depths of up to 800 metres, while optimal depths for bottom-fixed wind turbines are 20-50 metres, Statoil said.

“Floating offshore wind is now a viable technology and ready to be rolled out on an industrial scale,” European wind power association Wind Europe said in an email.

About 80 percent of Europe’s offshore wind resource potential, or around 4,000 gigawatt, is in waters 60 metres and deeper, the association said.

Statoil said it had looked at potential areas outside Europe for floating wind developments, such as California, Hawaii and Japan, but had no new specific projects yet.

In January, Statoil divested a 25 percent stake in the Hywind project to Abu Dhabi green energy firm Masdar, which has covered its share of total cost, and is also Statoil’s partner in the Dudgeon wind farm off Norfolk, England.

Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis and Susanna Twidale in London; editing by Mark Heinrich