OSLO (Reuters) - Statoil will invest about $236 million (153 million pounds) in building a floating wind farm off Scotland, the first of its kind, to try to make the renewable energy source competitive by 2025.
The company, which has run a single floating offshore turbine for several years in Norway, is planning to build a 30 megawatt pilot project consisting of five floating turbines off the coast near Aberdeen in an area where the water depth is up to 120 metres.
Floating turbines are built for waters deeper than about 50 metres -- the maximum for foundation-based turbines.
As well as benefiting from not being limited to shallow waters, floating terminals also tend to attract less opposition over how they look than land-based wind farms.
But the costs of energy produced is higher than for more regular fixed offshore and onshore wind, Statoil said.
"We don't want to bet on something that will be reliant on subsidies forever, so we have a clear target to get costs down to a place where it doesn't need subsidies," said Irene Rummelhoff, head of Statoil's New Energy Solutions unit.
"And we believe that is realistic by the mid-2020s," she added in an interview.
Statoil's investment in the project is the first from the oil major's newly established business division for low carbon and renewable energy.
Portugal and Norway have pioneered the new technology in the past few years with a single floating turbine each, and Portugal plans to build a 25 MW floating wind demonstration farm. Japan also has floating offshore wind projects.
"I think the interest in offshore wind is growing," Rummelhoff said. "UK definitely are the leader, but we also see Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and France are coming up with new auctions asking people to compete for new wind areas".
Rummelhoff added that she watched developments in the United States and Japan closely.
France launched a tender in August for several floating offshore wind turbine projects.
Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by David Goodman and Keith Weir