Tactical investment in Scotland’s port infrastructure tailored to support the fast-growing international offshore wind industry could uncork tens of billions of pounds in economic benefit for the country in the coming decades, an independent, government-backed report has calculated.

The strategic investment assessment (SIA), led by professor Jim McDonald, found that construction of 22 hectares of new port capacity suitable to fabrication of floating wind platforms would immediately stimulate some £1.5bn ($2bn) in investment in the country and lead to offshore developments by 2027 that would generate a total spend of almost £19bn, as well as creating 1,900 jobs a year during construction and some 30,000 over these projects’ operational lives.

Commissioned by the Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council (SOWEC), an industry-government group co-chaired by minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Ivan McKee and SSE Renewables executive Brian McFarlane, the report sets out five key recommendations:

  • establishment of a collaboration framework supporting the creation of a Scottish Floating Offshore Wind Port Cluster,
  • supporting Scottish suppliers “to get them ready to bid for and win work”,
  • “celebrating and selling” success in the Scottish offshore wind supply chain,
  • preparing for future growth and the next generation of innovations, and
  • planning for the energy transition and “a future of far-from-shore, mixed-use energy projects”.

“As a nation which has been at the forefront of energy engineering, innovation and exploitation since the industrial revolution, this rapid shift in how we produce and consume energy as we address the real and present impacts of climate change is a significant challenge for Scotland. But of course, it is also an opportunity,” said McDonald.

“Scotland has a significant asset base currently in its business leaders and company base, strategic plans to address the growing international floating offshore wind market, ports and other facilities.

“By taking a collaborative approach to create a port cluster with complementary capabilities and capacity, Scotland will be better placed to attract national and inward investment, build a strong and competitive floating wind supply chain, position us competitively within a large-scale global opportunity and secure the economic benefits of being seen as an international leader in this area.”

McDonald added: “Time though is of the essence, meaning it is vital that the offshore wind industry and government take on board the recommendations of this assessment and focus action on their delivery.”

Focus on home-grown construction of floating wind platforms through creation of the port cluster, starting with investment to support renovation of Scotland existing former oil & gas fabrication yards and the addition of another 22 hectares of sector-suitable port capacity, the SIA found, could go on to deliver longer-term growth and a £4.5bn market.

“We recommend bringing ports together to ‘move the fence’ beyond their immediate boundaries. Doing this creates a port cluster suitable for floating platform fabrication and manufacture... meaning multiple ports working together to provide capacity and capability required by industry but not available in a single location,” said McDonald.

Th report emphasised that to capitalise on the current ScotWind leasing round, launched earlier this year by Crown Estate Scotland with the ambition of building 10GW of projects by 2030, “a new partnership approach will be needed”, with learnings from sectors including oil & gas used “to develop a collaborative framework that can make explicit the expected future requirements of the offshore wind sector”.

The Scottish and UK governments, the SIA said, must help “prime early investment” to build world-class port facilities. It also spotlighted the Scottish subsea engineering sector as “a priority group well-suited to offshore wind” that should be helped to “better engage with and win work from top tier offshore wind companies”.

ScotWind, according to the report, could straightaway spark the creation of 5,000 jobs a year during construction.

Scotland’s energy secretary Michael Matheson said: “The offshore wind sector has a vital role to play in decarbonising our energy system and ensuring we become a net-zero economy by 2045.

“With a pipeline of new projects set to be provided by the first cycle of ScotWind Leasing, the Scottish government committed to setting out this SIA within our first 100 days of government as we seek to better support the offshore wind supply chain and create further good, green jobs as we deliver a just transition to net zero.

“The report sets out a clear path of the steps we must take to seize the economic opportunity this presents for Scotland. With COP26 in Glasgow approaching, this is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the action we are taking on renewable energy and I look forward to continuing to engage with SOWEC as they take forward delivery of the recommendations.”

Jonathan Cole, offshore managing director of Iberdrola Renewables and a member of the SIA executive committee, said: “Scotland is the windiest country in Europe, with the biggest and most experienced offshore sector and supply chain, so we’re perfectly placed to create a new floating [wind] industry that supports the energy transition and leaves no one behind – people, businesses, communities.

“Today’s report sets out the strategic framework for ensuring we can reap the benefits of that throughout the supply chain and across the country. We need to embrace the collective drive and determination of the Scottish offshore wind industry to make that happen and ensure we can all enjoy a better future, quicker.”

Colin Maciver, senior development manager at Crown Estate Scotland, said: “Through the development of ScotWind leasing we know that there is a huge interest from developers hoping for the chance to build Scotland’s next generation of offshore wind farms, and we also know that the development of [the country’s port infrastructure is a key part of unlocking the economic potential that this can bring to Scottish communities.

“This report aligns with our efforts to ensure ScotWind applicants engage with their potential supply chain at an early stage and highlights the type of cross-sector collaboration that will be needed over the coming years to make sure Scotland is making the most of the opportunity that ScotWind is set to deliver.”

Crown Estate Scotland expects to award first option agreements for Scotwind leases in January after “sky high” interest in the pioneering tender that booked 74 applications for the 15 seabed areas from a who’s-who of global offshore wind players including Orsted, RWE, Ocean Winds, BP, EnBW, Shell, Iberdrola, TotalEnergies, Equinor, Vattenfall, Fred Olsen Renewables and SSE.

Edinburgh earlier this year announced plans to become a major centre supporting giant offshore wind construction developments in the North Sea under plans unveiled for the Port of Leith, while the Nigg yard near Inverness recently locked up some £8.3m in investment from the Scottish government for a major extension to the yard’s quayside to accommodate offshore and floating wind fabrication projects.

Scotland is home to two of the first floating wind power arrays, the 30MW Hywind Scotland and the 50MW Kincardine, but the platforms for these projects were built in Norway and Spain, respectively.