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ScotWind Leasing round offers opportunities for Highlands and Islands businesses with 10GW of offshore wind capacity and £8bn investment predicted

By John Davidson

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Up to 10GW of capacity is expected to be developed via the ScotWind Leasing round.
Up to 10GW of capacity is expected to be developed via the ScotWind Leasing round.

The Highlands and Islands is set to reap the benefits of a massive increase in offshore wind development around the coasts of northern Scotland.

A new round of offshore wind leasing in Scottish waters – the first in a decade – is expected to open up around 10GW of potential capacity.

That could see enough electricity produced to power every Scottish household, according to Crown Estate Scotland, while it is being seen as a major step towards meeting the Scottish Government’s target of Scotland being net zero by 2045.

Due to an agreement through the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, at least 60 per cent of the content of each development should come from the UK supply chain, with businesses in the Highlands and north-east expected to gain substantial contracts.

The seabed leasing round, launched on Wednesday, June 10 and known as ScotWind Leasing, is anticipated to see more than £8 billion in investment and save more than six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

John Robertson, Crown Estate Scotland’s head of energy and infrastructure said: “Today is a huge step forward in kick-starting Scotland’s green recovery, meeting net-zero targets and bringing multi-billion-pound investments to benefit communities across the nation.

“Offshore wind is currently one of the cheapest forms of new electricity generation and Scotland is perfectly poised to host major new projects, with a well-established energy skills sector as well as some of the best natural marine resources in Europe.”

From today, investors and developers will be able to register interest in obtaining an ‘option agreement’ with Crown Estate Scotland. These can then lead to the signing of leases to build offshore wind farms in one of the areas of seabed to be outlined as suitable in the Scottish Government’s Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy.

Audrey MacIver, director of energy and low carbon at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, welcomed the leasing round, which she said would provide new opportunities for the region as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis.

“The ScotWind offshore wind leasing round, aligning with Marine Scotland’s Sectoral Marine Plan, will make provision for up to 10GW of new projects to be operational from around 2025 through to the early 2030s," she said.

“These projects will touch every part of the Highlands and Islands, offering large scale offshore energy opportunities, which have to date been largely confined to the east coast.

Audrey MacIver, HIE – skills in region can be harnessed.
Audrey MacIver, HIE – skills in region can be harnessed.

“Many of the sites are likely to require different technologies such as floating structures due to water depths. These technologies lend themselves to local production and are well aligned with the skills and expertise honed by the Highlands and Islands business base through decades of experience in oil and gas."

The development of a supply chain cluster, based around the initial development in the Moray Firth and Aberdeen areas, is seen as key to involving as much local business as possible in future offshore wind developments across Scotland.

The DeepWind cluster has more than 320 members drawn from industry, academia and the public sector. Its main purpose is to help its members achieve greater benefit from the current and future development of offshore wind in the UK and internationally.

Ms MacIver added: “We are working with the supply chain across the north of Scotland, through O4B for example, and in supporting the development of the DeepWind offshore wind cluster. This is about connecting industry, academia and government agencies in new ways to prepare for the scale-up in activity and opportunity offered by the leasing round.

“The Crown Estate Scotland’s Supply Chain Development Statements could be a key factor. We expect these to help instil further confidence in supporting the growth of the Highlands and Islands supply chain to meet the demands of the offshore wind industry across all parts of the region.

“This will create inclusive, sustainable employment opportunities through to the middle of this century and beyond.”

Fixed-base turbines such as those used in the Beatrice offshore wind farm as well as more floating technologies are expected to be required for developments in deeper waters. The Scottish Government said this would be part of the so-called green recovery, with jobs created in renewable energy across the region and beyond.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The launch of ScotWind marks another pivotal moment for the development of our offshore wind sector and also presents an opportunity to help develop our strategic economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As we emerge from the crisis, we have a chance to re-imagine the Scotland around us, and to begin building a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy, one in which wellbeing, fair work and social justice are prioritised.

“Our seas are host to some of the best offshore wind resources in the world, supporting the continuing growth and expansion of the sector. We want to harness this huge resource for our energy system, unlocking significant investment in the supply chain to create more green jobs across the sector and, importantly, to do so in a way that gives due regard to our marine environment and other marine activities.”

Claire Mack, Chief Executive at Scottish Renewables, added: "With a quarter of all Europe’s offshore wind resource, new generations of turbines which enable us to capture it more efficiently than ever and an offshore workforce which is constantly upskilling, the stage is set for the further development of offshore wind in Scotland.

Scottish Renewables' Claire Mack – industry can thrive on international stage.
Scottish Renewables' Claire Mack – industry can thrive on international stage.

"Today’s announcement by Crown Estate Scotland sets out the next part of that journey, providing a blueprint for the further expansion of an industry which is creating economic and environmental benefits across Scotland and helping meet our emissions targets as we progress towards net zero.

"Government and industry must now work together to maximise offshore wind deployment, and the supply chain opportunities which come with it, by removing barriers, investing strategically and making the right decisions, at the right time, to ensure this exciting sector has the confidence it needs to thrive at a global scale in the coming decades."

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