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Why Scotland is now key to the offshore wind sector

Nation at forefront of tech innovation, with gigawatts of projects in pipeline, writes Lindsay Roberts

This is an exciting year to be in offshore wind — particularly in Scotland.

We’ve watched as England and Wales built out Round 1 and 2 sites, developing expertise and a UK-wide supply chain that has brought down costs.

Now, with Round 3 sites and those in Scottish Territorial Waters in play, the huge rewards on offer from the stronger winds found north of the border are ready to be earned.

But offshore wind in Scotland is, in 2017, a game of two halves.

In the north, Beatrice is currently the only large-scale Scottish project in its construction phase.

This £2.6bn (€2.32bn/$2.47bn) 588MW scheme, to be built about 13km off the Moray Firth coast, is a joint venture between SSE (40%), Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (35%) and Redrock Power (25%).

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With work under way, this windswept corner of the British Isles is starting to realise a projected £680m of economic benefits from employment and supply-chain opportunities during Beatrice’s construction period alone. More than 890 people will be directly employed, while the project will help to revitalise ports such as Wick and Nigg.

Fife-based Burntisland Fabrications has won a £100m contract to turn 22,500 tonnes of steel into 26 wind turbine foundations for Beatrice, securing work through to April 2018.

Next to Beatrice lies the Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) project’s eastern development area, where owner EDP Renewables has consent to build up to 1.5GW. It is now looking to secure funding from the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) allocation round in April.

Towards the end of 2016, EDP Renewables also announced that planning work had commenced on MORL’s western development area, adding to the pipeline of projects coming forward in Scottish waters.

A host of projects in the Firth of Forth, around 200km further south, make up the bulk of Scotland’s remaining large-scale offshore wind ambitions, but here the story is slightly different.

While Inch Cape (784MW) and Seagreen Alpha and Seagrean Bravo (525MW each) are still to receive CfDs, Mainstream Renewable Power’s Neart na Gaoithe project (450MW) was awarded a £114.39/MWh contract in 2015, but has been unable to start construction. This is because of a successful judicial review, brought by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds charity, of the Scottish Government’s consenting process for all four projects.

That decision is being appealed, with the hearing scheduled for later this month.

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While the industry hopes for a successful outcome enabling the projects to move forward, there’s no denying the delay has been a real blow.

Back on a positive note, a host of smaller offshore wind projects, spread along Scotland’s east and north coasts, are putting the country at the forefront of sector innovation and helping deliver the cost reductions that are essential to offshore wind’s continuing growth.

Off Aberdeen, the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre is a 92.4MW, 11-turbine project led by the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, and latterly Vattenfall. It is currently under construction, using first-of-a-kind suction bucket foundations paired with Vestas’ V164-8.4MW turbines and 66kV cabling — some of the most advanced technology available anywhere in the world.

Statoil’s 30MW Hywind project, 64km off of Aberdeen, is another innovative first: the world’s largest floating wind farm.

The project, based on technology that has been successfully tested off Norway since 2009, was attracted to Scotland by a strong offshore energy supply chain and ideal weather conditions.

Those resources have been recognised by others in floating wind, too.

Danish technology developer Floating Power Plant is scoping Scottish test sites for its P80, the world's first successfully offshore-tested wind and wave device.

Swedish engineering house Hexicon’s plans for a two-turbine floating array off the north coast near Thurso are also well under way.

And the Kincardine Offshore Windfarm, an eight-turbine, 54MW floating project 15km off Aberdeen, is awaiting a licence to proceed from the Scottish Government.

Away from floating, Dutch technology developer 2-B Energy has secured consent to install two of its 6MW two-bladed downwind turbines at its Forthwind demonstration project in the Firth of Forth, while supply-chain developments like Global Energy’s upgraded yard at Nigg, on the Cromarty Firth, also show that Scotland’s offshore wind sector is very much open for business.

Lindsay Roberts is senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables