Fossil Fuel Companies Investing in Renewable Energy
Tom Lombardo posted on September 25, 2016 |
To avoid extinction, smart fossil fuel companies are putting more R&D into renewable energy.

E.ON, one of the world's largest energy providers, has seen its profits from fossil fuels drop by more than 30% over the past decade, forcing the company to make a commitment to renewable energy while spinning off its fossil fuel assets. In addition to scaling up renewable energy generation, E.ON is addressing the management and distribution of energy by mining and analyzing large volumes of data regarding energy consumption and weather forecasts. On the renewable energy front, E.ON has partnered with oil & gas company Statoil, creator of the first full-scale floating wind turbine.

Whatever Floats Your Turbine

Drawing on its years of experience with offshore drilling, Statoil engineered a floating wind turbine that can operate in water more than 100 meters deep, allowing it to be located farther offshore where the winds are stronger and the turbines aren't visible from the coast. The lack of a permanent foundation makes a floating turbine less expensive to mass produce and easier to install. Instead of legs sitting on the sea floor, the floating turbine is ballasted by water and rocks in its tank, and anchored by three cables. Software controls the blades while also maintaining balance, optimizing electricity production.

Image: Statoil
Image: Statoil

Statoil's Hywind is a pilot project featuring a two-megawatt floating wind turbine. It's spent the last six years in the North Sea, generating more than 50 GWh of electricity in that time. During its tenure, the floating turbine survived winds up to 40 m/s (90 MPH) and waves as high as 19 meters (62 ft).

Floating Offshore Wind Farm

E.ON and Statoil are investing a combined €1.2B ($1.35B USD) in renewable energy, including €175M ($197M USD) for Hywind 2, a 30 MW wind farm featuring five 6 MW floating turbines about 26 km off the coast of Scotland. The location boasts an average wind speed of 10 m/s (22MPH) - about as good as it gets when it comes to wind power. High wind speed coupled with cold, dense air makes a perfect climate for harnessing wind power. Medium voltage cables (33 kV)  will carry the electricity - enough to power more than 20,000 homes - to shore. Hywind 2 is expected to begin operation in Q4 of 2017.

Image: Statoil
Image: Statoil

Here's a video that discusses the E.ON/Statoil partnership, as well as some other renewable energy initiatives in Europe:

Video courtesy of The Economist

Energy Cooperatives

A couple of noteworthy items from the video:

  • Using a combination of wind, rooftop solar, and biogas, the village of Wildpoldsried Germany generates five times as much energy as it needs.

  • Residential battery units let customers store solar energy to be used later or to be sold to neighbors through an energy cooperative. Today, there are almost a thousand energy cooperatives in Germany alone. Energy industry expert Jay Warmke predicted this several years ago.

Survival of the ...

Charles Darwin noted that the species that survive are the ones most responsive to change. Energy companies that adapt to the changing environment will continue to prosper; the rest will become part of the economic fossil record, perhaps serving as a lesson to future generations.


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