It may come as a surprise to some, but Big Oil supports wind power development. Maybe it is not so shocking, as oil and gas companies, husbanding finite fossil fuel resources, need to pursue energy source diversification as a logical long-term strategy.
BP, for instance (yes, that BP which set aside $40 billion to handle the costs related to its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) is a major wind farm operator in the US. BP Wind Energy has 13 wind farms in seven states with a total generating capacity of 1,955 MW, enough power to electrify 586,000 homes. It has 1,000 wind turbines in Texas alone.
Statoil, another European oil giant, is also into wind power. In addition to participating in consortia exploring building conventional offshore wind farms in UK waters, Statoil operates the world’s first floating offshore wind turbine — Hywind, off KarmÃ¸y, western Norway. Hywind began producing power in 2009 and supplies 2.3 MW of electricity to 500 homes in the region.
Statoil now wants to sell the success of Hywind worldwide. The advantage of a floating rig is that the turbine does not require anchoring to the seabed, cutting maintenance and installation costs and allowing operations to be sited further out at sea where the wind is stronger than in coastal locations. The company is looking to erect cheaper, more compact, and more robust second-generation offshore floating wind turbines in the US, and possibly in Scotland.
Statoil has secured the support of government officials in Maine to develop a demonstration wind park in the US with four full-scale offshore wind turbines. One of its US partners, the University of Maine, has an offshore wind center, with a large laboratory for testing this kind of technology.
In another development, the UK and US government announced this month that they will jointly develop floating offshore wind turbines. Interested parties include BP, Royal Dutch Shell, E.ON, EDF, and Caterpillar.
What are those things bobbing up and down far out at sea on the next wave of wind power technology? Floating offshore wind turbines.
Photo by L. C. NÃ¸ttaasen used under a CC-Share Alike license.