Scottish offshore wind

robin-rigg-windfarm1 The technology could take off rapidly with the right support and inward investors are starting to announce their plans.

From small beginnings, Scotland is aiming to capture a quarter of Europe’s available offshore wind energy. Its open seas and a 40-year history of oil and gas prospecting are two clear advantages and its devolved government is an enthusiastic supporter.

At present, there are two offshore wind sites off Scotland:

• the 180MW Robin Rigg development in the Solway Firth (60 turbines);

• two 5MW turbines at the Beatrice demonstrator project in the Moray Firth.

These are located in Scottish territorial waters i.e. within 12 nautical miles of the coast. Beatrice started operating in July 2007 and Robin Rigg followed in April 2010.

Over the last year, officials have described the future shape of offshore wind in a route map for the industry and a sectoral marine plan, ‘Blue Seas – Green Energy’.

The Scottish Government considers it “critical that supply chain development keeps pace with and enables marine renewables development”.

The £70 million National Renewables Infrastructure Fund is being used to support this. It also points out that innovation and R&D need to focus on four priorities:

• anchoring;

• installation techniques;

• reliability; and

• survivability.

Technology accelerator programmes, run by the Carbon Trust, aim to move emerging energy sectors to full commercialisation. Its offshore wind accelerator programme is co-funded by eight international energy companies.

Scotland’s waters were sub-divided into six regions for analysis: east (off the Forth and Tay); north east (Moray Firth), north, north west, west coast (Tiree, Islay and Kintyre) and south west (Solway and Wigtown Bay).

Conditions are “favourable” in the east, north east, north and north west. However, developments would have to share the sea with shipping, fishing vessels and natural species. Windfarms could disturb the bottlenose dolphin population in the Moray Firth.

However, conditions were “mixed” off the west coast as windfarms could affect tourism in the area, by changing the landscape at sea. Local residents also need to be convinced. Meanwhile, there would be “little or no potential for regional economic benefit” in Wigtown Bay and the Solway Firth, which already includes the Robin Rigg site.

According to its operators E.ON, Robin Rigg should supply enough electricity to power approximately 117,000 homes and offset around 230,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. The project also involves a £1 million fund to invest in local communities and environmental projects in Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria.

A total of nine sites were initially identified for short-term development, up to 2020, and the relevant developers have been awarded exclusivity agreements by the Crown Estate Commissioners. The final sectoral marine plan cut this number to six, outlined in the table.

Site Region Developer MW
Argyll array West Scottish Power Renewables 1,500
Beatrice North east Airtricity & SeaEnergy Renewables 920
Forth array East Fred Olsen Renewables 415
Inch Cape East SeaEnergy Renewables 905
Islay West Airtricity 680
Neart na Gaoithe East Mainstream Renewable Power 420

In addition, the Crown Estate’s Round 3 has selected two short-term sites in Scottish offshore waters, beyond the 12-mile limit:

• a 3,465MW site in the Firth of Forth (Fluor Corporation and Scottish and Southern Energy); and

• a 1,300MW site in the Moray Firth (EDP Renovaveis and Sea Energy Renewables).

Twenty-five areas have been designated as potential medium-term developments, between 2020 and 2030: three in the east, three in the north east, six in the north, six in the north west, four in the west and five in the south west.

If all three Crown Estate rounds and the Scottish territorial water bids went ahead, the UK’s renewable energy capacity would reach 48GW by 2020, making it the world’s largest offshore wind market. This could create a £100 billion supply chain.

The envisaged process is:

• pre-application and application (2010 onwards);

• environmental impact assessments (2010-2012);

• planning (2012-2013);

• procurement (2013-2017);

• construction (2014-2017, peaking in 2016-2017);

• commissioning (2015-2018).

Scotland’s offshore renewables potential (also including wave and tidal) is estimated at 206GW, constituting almost 40 per cent of the UK’s total potential.

Three major turbine manufacturers (Doosan Power Systems, Gamesa and Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe Ltd) plan to locate in Scotland. Collectively, those investments could represent 2,400 jobs.

Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government’s directorate for marine policy, will continue to streamline the planning and consent process. More grid connections to offshore sites will be needed; the problem is being considered as part of Project TransmiT, Ofgem’s independent review of the charging arrangements for transmission networks.

Doosan’s R&D centre of excellence for renewables will be located at Westway in Renfrew, near Glasgow. This would initially create 200 jobs and the company also hopes to establish assembly and manufacturing facilities in Scotland. The South Korean conglomerate aims to eventually create 700 jobs directly and another 1,000 indirectly through the supply chain, and invest up to £170 million.

As a spin-off, the nearby Steel Engineering company plans to double its workforce to 120 new jobs and focus on renewables, including offshore wind. Steel Engineering and Anniesland College are also preparing plans for a training school, the Renewable Energy Steel Trades Academy.

Gamesa has confirmed that its offshore wind technology centre will be located at Strathclyde Business Park, eight miles east of Glasgow city centre. This is due to employ 180 people within three years. The Spanish company is also prepared to invest in manufacturing, logistics and operations and maintenance, although this depends on the development of offshore wind projects, government support and the availability of sites for prototypes. That could bring the number of new jobs up to 300.

Mitsubishi will meanwhile establish a centre for advanced technology in Edinburgh. It has also acquired a local firm, Artemis Intelligent Power, and hopes to create up to 200 jobs across both locations over the next five years.

In its most optimistic scenario, the Scottish Government’s route map foresees an industry worth £7.1 billion by 2020 and creating 28,377 jobs. However, it also warns that with so much activity across the UK and Europe, Scotland could be left on the periphery. Inaction would limit growth to £224 million and 914 jobs over the same time period.

Key success factors

• Fit-for-purpose infrastructure
• Appropriate supply chain
• Ongoing innovation
• Grid access
• Managing the marine environment
• Skills
• Finance
• Support from communities
• Support from sea users
• Competition
• Keeping to schedule

Source: Offshore Wind Route Map

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