The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has opened a public consultation on a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the 15 offshore wind zones that have been identified for development. It will run until 4 April 2013.
The SEA identifies five zones offering the best technical and economic conditions and the lowest environmental impacts. They are: Frøyabanken, Sandskallen, Utsira Nord, Sørlige Nordsjø I and Sørlige Nordsjø II.
Of these, Frøyabanken and Utsira Nord would have to rely on floating turbine technology, due to water depths. The others would use fixed foundations. Utsira North offers the lowest cost of energy and the best grid connection options, according to the report.
After the public consultation is finished, "the ministry will come to a decision on whether any of the areas that have been investigated should be opened for applications by the industry for offshore wind projects", a spokesperson told Windpower Offshore.
Offshore wind development remains a distant prospect in Norway, however. The government has said it will only support it when it becomes competitive with other renewable energy technologies. The costs of Norwegian hydroelectric power are currently less than one quarter those of UK offshore wind.
Offshore wind "will not be economically competitive with onshore wind power in Norway" before 2020, the SEA states. Nonetheless, the report recommends Norwegian participation in technological developments, especially of floating foundations, to improve the competitiveness of Norwegian companies in this growing industrial sector.
Companies including Statoil and Statkraft are active in European offshore wind, but the only commercial-scale Norwegian project, the 350MW Havsul I, was shelved last December.