Big oil is starting to challenge the biggest utilities in the race to erect wind turbines at sea, which might help drive down costs of wind power.

The oil companies have many reasons to move into the industry. They’ve spent decades building oil projects offshore, but that business is winding down in areas where older fields have drained. Returns from wind farms are predictable and underpinned by government-regulated electricity prices. And fossil fuel execs want a piece of the clean-energy business, as forecasts emerge that renewables will eat into their market.

Even as oil production declined in the North Sea over the last 15 years, economic activity has been buoyed by offshore wind turbines. The notorious winds that plagued generations of workers on oil platforms have become a boon for a new era of laborers who install and maintain turbines anchored deep into the seabed.

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