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Offshore Wind

Scotland on the verge of exploiting offshore wind fortune

By Oliver M. Bayani
Jenny Hogan, policy director at Scottish Renewables, said offshore wind is driving the greatest economic opportunity the country has had in a generation.

Scotland’s seascape could be home to an offshore wind industry that can channel £7.1 billion ($11.03 billion) worth of investments to its economy and create up to 28,000 fulltime jobs over the next decade, according to a new report.

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The report, Scottish Offshore Wind: Creating an Industry commissioned by trade association Scottish Renewables and government investments agency Scottish Enterprise, outlines four scenarios illustrating the industry’s growth and what would bring them about.

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Jenny Hogan, policy director at Scottish Renewables, said offshore wind is driving the greatest economic opportunity the country has had in a generation. But the industry could be blown off course if the government fails to capitalize on its huge wind resources, she said.

The report’s best-case scenario suggests that an industry as big as the oil and gas sector could emerge by 2020. But investors need to make all the necessary supply chain investments and grid upgrades needed to support as much as 10.6 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by that time.

A scenario of unrestricted sector growth expects to yield a £7.1 billion industry and up to 28,000 jobs over the decade. In contrast, the entire Scottish energy sector had a total value of £5.5 billion in 2007 and employed only 463.

The same reforms in grid infrastructure and supply chains are required for a more moderate growth scenario, which involves developing half of the potential sites for offshore wind farms by 2020. This would result in lesser export of goods and services to international markets. Still, this scenario would generate more than 19,000 jobs and support an industry worth £4.5 billion.

The report warns that the next four years are critical to success or failure in these scenarios. Concerted effort from government and industry are necessary to streamline permitting processes and develop the needed workforce skills.

Failure to do so could result in Scotland developing only a fraction of currently leased sites, with only 1.2 GW of new capacity coming online over the next decade that will generate 900 new jobs.

"We already have significant employment in the sector … but this report confirms the industry could become one of the country’s major employers over the next decade," Ms. Hogan said.

"However it's also clear that none of this can be taken for granted. Other parts of Britain and ports all over Europe are fighting tooth and nail to secure investment and the economic benefits that offshore manufacturing and associated activity will bring."

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has unveiled plans for the world’s first floating wind farm on promising sites off the coast of Lewis and Aberdeenshire.

Elsewhere in Europe, Norwegian energy giant Statoil A.S. has been assessing global sites to host special turbines that can go farther out to sea where winds blow steadier and stronger.

Scotland, meanwhile, has two major operational offshore wind sites – the Beatrice demonstration project with two 5-megawatt turbines and the Robin Rigg wind farm with a total capacity of 180 MW.

But the Crown Estate, a British property portfolio, has signed agreements with developers for up to 10.6 GW of offshore wind projects on Scottish waters by 2020. Developers are currently awaiting results of draft government environmental assessments to secure further leases.

Richard Dixon, director for the World Wide Fund for Nature in Scotland, said the report confirmed a long-held belief that the country was on the verge of something truly huge.

"With careful planning we can fully tap into offshore wind, wave and tidal power while also safeguarding the nation's tremendous marine environment," he said.

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