• Sees Hywind Pilot investment decision within six weeks
  • Renewables judged on same profitability criteria as oil, gas

Statoil ASA, Norway’s biggest oil company, is looking to make an investment decision to go ahead with its Hywind floating windpower farm offshore Scotland within the six next weeks, the first such commitment since creating a separate renewable-energy unit.

“Offshore wind has a strong potential” along the coast of the U.K., Stephen Bull, senior vice president for wind power projects, said in an interview Tuesday at Statoil’s office outside of Oslo. “It’s a natural place to try and develop and build our business.”

The Hywind park, which will consist of five 6 megawatt floating turbines, is a pilot project designed to demonstrate the technology on a commercial scale, according to Statoil. Bull declined to provide a spending estimate. Construction is planned to start as early as next year with final commissioning in 2017, according the company.

Statoil is committing to the project after Chief Executive Officer Eldar Saetre, who succeeded Helge Lund at the top of the Norwegian state-controlled company a year ago, named Irene Rummelhoff to head its newly created New Energy Solutions unit.

While the company aims to take advantage of its offshore expertise in expanding into offshore-wind and other renewable-energy projects, they will need to compete with oil and gas ventures to demonstrate profitability, Bull said.

“To kick off and develop a renewables business, you can’t do this on the hope that we will make money one day,” he said. “We need to have positive rates of return. We need to show that this can be profitable.”

Statoil’s only commercial wind project in production is the Sheringham Shoal farm offshore eastern England. It also made an investment decision on the nearby Dudgeon project last year and is a partner on two Dogger Bank projects, which were approved by the U.K. earlier this year.

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