Associate Feature: Orkney Green Freeport - the UK’s innovation investment hub
Orkney’s world famous Scapa Flow – the largest natural harbour in the northern hemisphere – is a unique asset with global significance, strategically located in calm waters in proximity to major shipping channels as well as some of the best wind, wave and tidal resource in the world - and furnished with the space and infrastructure to make it the ideal choice for locating a Green Freeport.
Orkney is already globally renowned as a centre for renewables, energy innovation and development, and as the UK looks to a green economic recovery and a transition to net zero, is perfectly positioned to build and expand on that reputation.
Three key locations have been identified for Green Freeport tax reliefs, aimed at enabling and accelerating inward investment in facilities to support the development of renewable energy technology and sustainably manufactured hydrogen.
The ongoing programme of renewable energy innovation, and innovation in hydrogen manufacture and use across Orkney, provides a unique catalyst for economic development, with the creation of over 1000 well-paid jobs, increased opportunities for the 150 annual school leavers and a world-leading supply chain now exporting technology, skills and knowledge around the world.
The Orkney Green Freeport will, if designated, attract £26m from Government in support of over £300m of investment projects – including additional infrastructure to support the development of the Orkney Logistics Base at Hatston, Copland’s Dock Business Park and the Flotta Hydrogen Hub concept. Funding will also support the development of key infrastructures in Scapa Flow at Lyness and the site of the Scapa Deep Water Quay as well as further expansion of cutting-edge aviation innovation activity at Kirkwall Airport.
Orkney has already played a pivotal role in the development of the 25 GW ScotWind programme - working alongside partner organisations and developers to maximise the economic opportunity for the islands - including signing an agreement with Crown Estate Scotland to work together in developing the Scapa Deep Water Quay – a key site to allow the assembly and delivery of turbines to locations across the ScotWind leased sites.
Through our marine, oil and gas, and renewable generation experience Orkney has also been able to support the transition to alternative fuels with research and development in hydrogen too, demonstrating the use of hydrogen to decarbonise power, heat and transport applications. Research projects have explored how to use hydrogen to power ferries, planes and road vehicles, for heating at the airport and even in the distillation process to make hydrogen-powered gin.
Continuous, proactive collaboration has been critical to the innovation taking place and is credit to local partners - public, private, academia and third sector - working together. Orkney is building its collated hydrogen knowledge across the value chain, from production, through to storage, transport, supply and end use, and with this a new knowledge economy and specialised skills have developed.
Green Freeports create attractive investment locations to support maritime decarbonisation and the Orkney Green Freeport would play a critical role in this transition through the development of renewable energy and low carbon fuels for industrial process and transport.
Orkney Green Freeport will allow the industry to respond to new market opportunities and downstream business investment opportunities for sectors reliant on modern, fit for purpose port infrastructure. It will move away from the traditional idea of a freeport, be less about traded goods and more about deregulation for the development of world leading solutions, the export of expertise, and the import of technological innovation to test and export at commercial scale – building substantially on activity which Orkney already hosts and excels at.
ScotWind may have provided us with the demand for infrastructure, but Green Freeport provides the context for developing that infrastructure and realising positive local economic impact, by attracting co-investment and onshoring as much of the supply chain as possible
Orkney – as a group of islands – presents a manageable ‘whole place’ investment opportunity – shifting the economy to net zero, creating jobs, and attractive opportunities for local people and school leavers - and allowing us to build on the opportunities provided by offshore wind and hydrogen / ammonia production to make Orkney even more attractive to investment.
Stepping forward together, creating the future, learning from the past: it’s the Orkney way.
This article is sponsored by Orkney Islands Council.