Scotland this week announced another offshore leasing round which is good news for the burgeoning offshore wind industry.
This positive news is somewhat tempered by the fact that it is nearly two years late; I remember going up to Edinburgh and discussing a number of alternatives about two years ago when there was plenty of exciting ‘blue sea’ thinking about combining offshore wind with other technologies and business interests and I’ve watched as these aspirations have gradually been whittled down to a deliverable leasing offer.
In studying the latest Marine Scotland maps, we see some interesting developments – a site off the Solway coast has reappeared and may tie in with Round 4 aspirations to the south. I am particularly pleased that extended boundaries have been added to my former site off the coast of Islay; I will be watching for developments on floating technology there. Turbines are much larger than the 200 metres to tip we proposed five or six years ago so watch for landscape and visual impacts for Bowmore especially.
Moving around the coast to the north are new sites on Scotland’s northern tip, the harsh wind conditions mean that this area would be well suited to floating and combined wave and wind technologies.
The islands of Shetland and Orkney, the latter a world-leader on hydrogen, can couple with offshore wind to allow the hydrogen economy to develop further relying as it does on significant amounts of electrical power for the electrolysis process.
There are further leasing areas to the east of Scotland, an area of particular interest due to its proximity to the St Fergus transmission facility and Project Acorn.
Moving further south, ‘Seagreen,’ off Arbroath, will be one of the next Scottish projects to be built out, this will be joined by further sites in the vicinity but further out to sea. We will wait and see how transmission develops; by individual cables or bundled together via shared hubs.
More generally it will be interesting to see if the sites will be designated for floating or fixed wind or will it be left to the developer to decide; an approach favoured by the London Crown Estate. The Round 4 pragmatic view is that the developers are closest to the detail and so are best placed to make the call.
Offshore wind costs have plummeted in the two years that Scotwind has been gestating so it is good to see that it is finally underway. Fixed and floating technologies can be complimentary although there are significant differences in the type of supply chain, perhaps one of the hidden reasons why it has taken so long.
The sheer scale of this announcement may serve to resolve any tensions between fixed and floating wind, and it is good news for offshore wind; 10 GW in other circumstances would be regarded as seismic in its scope.
Scotwind delays have allowed Holland, Germany and the Nordic countries to steal some of the thunder. Even on 10th of June, the day of the announcement, Scotwind was to an extent overshadowed by the simultaneous announcement of the German Hydrogen Strategy with its emphasis on the massive growth of green hydrogen.
Nevertheless, Scotwind does carry global resonance, Scotland has a terrific wind resource and the engineering capability to deliver. We now wait and see the timelines, the bidding process begins this Wednesday and it is expected to be completed by March, the shortest of nine-month windows.
Scotwind is up and running and Scotland can aim once more to be a world leader. Judicial reviews may have slowed Scotland’s stated ambitions but in that time, costs have fallen and battery arrays, floating wind and now hydrogen have emerged to augment the offer. The developments can harmonise with Scotland’s oil and gas interests to ease the pain for that sector; we wish Scotwind every success.
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