Friday, 5 February 2010

Turbines' £20bn economic windfall

Published Date: 05 February 2010
By Jenny Fyall
ELEVEN areas of Scotland are earmarked to benefit from a manufacturing boom in offshore wind turbines over the next decade.
It is predicted up to 8,000 giant turbines will be put in the seas around Scotland by 2020, in an emerging offshore wind sector worth an estimated £20 billion.Renewables companies are expected to flock to Scotland to make the most of the excellent conditions for offshore wind farms in coastal waters, providing 20,000 new jobs.However, Scotland will achieve full benefit from investment opportunities only if the turbines for offshore wind farms are built here – rather than being shipped in from overseas.Scotland largely missed out on playing a role in the onshore wind turbine manufacturing sector, and the Scottish Government is determined not to repeat the mistake.So the government asked Scottish Enterprise to draw up a "National Renewables Infrastructure Plan" identifying suitable sites for manufacturing.The chosen areas, in a Scottish Enterprise report published yesterday, are Leith, Dundee, Nigg, Hunterston, Aberdeen, Arnish, Campbeltown, Machrihanish, Ardersier, Kishorn, Peterhead and Energy Park Fife at Methil.They have been chosen as they have the potential to provide up to 500 hectares of space at the quayside needed for building and storing turbines, water access for vessels up to 140 metres long, and possibly even helicopter landing pads for turbines that need to be taken far out to sea.Identifying key sites was the first step tasked to Scottish Enterprise, and now a second report will draw up "investment plans" for each site, to identify funding steams to make sure necessary infrastructure is in place.No public money has been set aside for improving the infrastructure at the 11 sites. Instead, it is expected most of the money will come from the private sector.The sites would be used to build and assemble different parts of turbines, such as blades and towers, and some would become "hubs" for maintaining offshore wind farms once built. Each could support up to 5,000 workers.The report added: "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 outwith Scotland, and outwith the UK. If this happens, the economic benefit to Scotland will be minimal, despite the country's unmatched renewable energy generation potential."Calum Davidson, head of key sectors with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "The fabrication opportunities of offshore wind have the potential to match the boom years of oil and gas in the Seventies and Eighties, if we can capture the manufacturing opportunities for Scotland."Energy minister Jim Mather said: "We have massive opportunities to build strong, vibrant industries throughout the supply chain, and that's why we are taking a national approach to infrastructure to maximise the economic benefits from renewables." Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: "Scotland must grab the opportunity offshore wind offers and invest in locations identified in the report.