For quite some time now, nations all over the world have been seeking out alternative sources of energy to lessen dependence on fossil fuels. This quest for renewable energy has been much stronger in the developed nations of the West than in the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America, although the latter regions have been embarking on their own renewable energy programs. Investors the world over have been financing various renewable energy companies in the hopes of getting big rewards. In many cases, the end results have been disappointing. However, there is one company that has the potential to deliver a better return. That company is Norway's Statoil (NYSE:STO).
Statoil: More than just a producer of oil and gas
At this point, many of you reading this may have a reaction along the lines of: "Statoil? Isn't that an oil company?" It is true that Statoil is primarily a producer of oil and gas. In fact, it is one of the largest producers of fossil fuels in Europe. However, the company is also moving into the production of renewable energy, primarily through the construction of wind farms.
First, a little background on Statoil to make it easier to understand how the company got into the wind farm business to begin with. Statoil was originally founded in the late 1970s to develop the massive resource deposits that were found on the Norwegian continental shelf and in the Norwegian parts of the North Sea. These resources were found exclusively offshore. Therefore, in order to develop these resources, Statoil had to construct numerous offshore platforms, pipelines, and related infrastructure. This naturally resulted in Statoil acquiring significant expertise in constructing artificial structures in the world's seas and oceans.
This expertise is what basically got the company into the wind farm industry.
A growing line of business
The Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm is a very large wind farm that will be located twenty miles off the coast of Cromer, North Norfolk, United Kingdom. The scale of this project is tremendous, with the wind farm generating enough energy to power 410,000 houses in the United Kingdom. This corresponds to approximately 402 MW of power generation capacity, making this offshore wind farm a little less than half the size of the largest wind farm in the United States. This wind farm, the Alta Wind Energy Center in California, generates a maximum output of 1,020 MW.
The Dudgeon Wind Farm will be the second offshore wind farm that Statoil has constructed. This means that this line of business is still very much a growing one for Statoil. The market for these wind farms is very much likely to grow given the advantages that offshore wind farms have over onshore ones.
First is that because offshore wind farms are constructed over water instead of over land, these facilities don't take up land that could otherwise be used for building houses, raising crops and livestock, or other purposes.
Second, topographical features such as hills and mountains tend to make wind flows much more erratic on land than over the ocean, where steady and sustainable winds are much more common. These advantages mean that many more regions are likely going to engage in projects like this, and by positioning itself as a company that has knowledge and expertise in constructing these wind farms, Statoil should be able to secure many more construction contracts for them.
Other ways to play the trend
Investors who prefer not to bet on any one company operating in this industry may wish to invest in it in another way, by buying the companies that manufacture the parts used to construct these wind farms. German electronics conglomerate Siemens AG (NASDAQOTH:SIEGY), for example, is a major manufacturer of the turbines used to generate the electricity, as is General Electric (NYSE:GE).
In conclusion, offshore wind farms such as Dudgeon are likely to become much more common around the world in the coming years as countries seek to diversify their power sources away from fossil fuels. Investors who know where to look can profit from this trend.
Daniel Gibbs has a long position in Statoil. His research firm, Powerhedge LLC, has a business relationship with a registered investment advisor whose clients may have positions in any of the stocks mentioned. Powerhedge LLC has no position in any stocks mentioned and is not a registered investment advisor. The Motley Fool recommends Statoil (ADR). The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.