Friday, 5 February 2010

Report likens renewables to Scotland’s oil boom years

Charlene Sweeney

The manufacture of offshore renewable technology could provide an economic boost to Scotland that is equivalent to the boom years of North Sea oil and gas.
That is the view of senior business figures, who yesterday unveiled the first stage in a plan to create the infrastructure necessary to take advantage of the country’s growing renewable energy sector.
Renewable schemes are set to expand greatly over the coming decade. Estimates put the capital costs of offshore wind projects in Scottish waters at between £15 billion and £18 billion over the next 10 years, while the Pentland Firth, in the north of the country, has one quarter of Europe’s tidal power potential.
The report, Scotland’s Renewables Infrastructure Plan, published by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), suggests 11 locations, including five in the highlands and islands, which could be developed as key sites for the production and assembly of turbines for offshore wind farms, and the manufacture of marine devices.
It said investment in the 11 locations was “crucial” if the country is to supply and fit the offshore schemes planned for Scottish waters. Other locations will also be required to act as operation and maintenance bases.
“If these sites are not available there is the danger that offshore wind developers and wave and tidal manufacturers could source the manufactured equipment for projects which secure Crown Estate leases from out with Scotland, and out with the UK. If that happens the economic benefit to Scotland will be minimal, despite the country's unmatchable renewable energy potential,” the report cautioned.
The comments will be seen as a warning that the country must not repeat its failure to capitalise on the mass installation of onshore wind farms in Scotland in recent years, including Whitelee, just outside Glasgow, the biggest wind farm farm in Europe. There is lingering regret that most of the manufacturing jobs for such turbines went abroad.
The 11 sites — at Leith, Dundee, Nigg, in Inverness-shire, Methil, in Fife, Aberdeen, Hunterston, in Ayrshire, Arnish, in Lewis, Machrihanish, in Argyll, Ardersier, Inverness-shire, Peterhead, and Kishorn, Wester Ross — have been chosen because they offer the best infrastructure and location. Among the key requirements are deep water, which is necessary to accommodate the large vessels that will transport the turbines, quayside space for fabrication and assembly, and the availability of a skilled workforce.
A second report, due to be published later this year, will determine how much investment, both public and private sector, is required to make the sites viable. Some have a head start. Renewables manufacturing is already underway at Arnish, Nigg and Machrihanish, while other sites have a history of servicing the North Sea oil and gas industry.
Calum Davidson, head of key sectors with HIE, said: “This report underlines Scotland’s intention to be at the forefront of this emerging industry. The fabrication opportunities of offshore wind have the potential to match the boom years of oil and gas in the 70s and 80s, if we can capture the manufacturing opportunities for Scotland.”
Adrian Gillespie, senior director of Scottish Enterprise’s energy team, said: “The further development of a first phase of locations is critical to Scotland establishing itself as a leading location for manufacturing and assembling wind turbines and marine devices. Over time, the industry will offer significant opportunities for the whole of Scotland.
“Investing in these sites will provide companies and investors in offshore wind with suitable locations to base themselves to develop, service and support the opportunities that will be created in Scottish and UK water for renewable energy. The sheer scale of Scotland’s economic opportunity means we have to work quickly with our partners to develop the next stage of the plan, which will examine private and public sector investment opportunities” Jim Mather, the Energy Minister, welcomed the report. The offshore wind industry is due to invest £20 billion in Scottish waters over the next decade, he said.