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Associate Feature: Scotland’s new offshore energy revolution

Associate Feature: Scotland’s new offshore energy revolution

For a country blessed with natural resources and a long history of harnessing them, the move from coal, oil and gas to renewables rhymes with Scotland’s story. Some of these traditions can be proudly followed – innovation, pioneering investment and sheer hard work. 

Scotland therefore is at a crucial moment where it must urgently decarbonise and use its phenomenal human and natural resources to do so, but in a way that shares the opportunity with the communities, workforce and supply chain.

The ScotWind leasing round for offshore wind projects around Scotland’s coast will conclude in January 2022. ScotWind could result in up to 11GW of renewable energy being generated, making this country a world beater in energy once again. It will be for Crown Estate Scotland to judge which of the proposals it’s received are the strongest.

The West of Orkney Windfarm is among the leading contenders under evaluation. This project will sit off the coasts of Orkney and Caithness and will generate 2GW of electricity. This proposal offers a compelling blend of significant renewable power with deep local focus, commitment to the Scottish supply chain and ambitions to develop one of the world’s first green hydrogen facilities. The West of Orkney Windfarm is supported by a consortium comprised of TotalEnergies, Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG) and Renewable Infrastructure Development Group (RIDG).

Holyrood spoke with three people leading this ScotWind bid: Mike Hay, Commercial Director at RIDG, Edward Northam, Head of GIG in Europe and the UK, and Philippe De Cacqueray, Head of Offshore Wind UK at TotalEnergies, to discuss their proposal. 

Key to their West of Orkney bid is their unique targeted focus on one geographic area, and the strength of the partnerships forged with local Orkney and Caithness businesses, that will be crucial for successful project delivery, says Mike Hay of RIDG, an independent Scottish offshore wind developer. 

“We have been working very closely with Scrabster Harbour for a number of years already on the opportunity to develop it into our operation and maintenance base. We want to support the harbour’s development both technically and financially so that it can be exactly what we need when we need it. 

“We have also been working with Orkney Harbour Authority (OHA), owned by Orkney Islands Council, on their Scapa Deep Water Quay, which is a large facility planned for construction in Scapa Flow as part of their Harbour Masterplan for the area.

 “This facility is exactly what this part of the world needs, and it could provide a key construction location for a number of decades to come.”

 Speaking on the expertise of GIG, Edward Northam says, “We have been a pioneer in the offshore market. 

“Macquarie and GIG have supported more than 50 per cent of the UK’s offshore wind capacity currently installed. 

“We have put in a leading investment, and what a journey it has been so far. Over more than a decade we have gained so much experience, and are now developing tens of gigawatts of projects around the world. We’re looking forward to bringing some of this experience home through ScotWind.”

The bidding partners have not underestimated the complexity of delivering a project in this harsh environment and having the vital offshore experience of TotalEnergies, which has worked on projects of a similar scale and in the same part of the world for decades, has been imperative. As Philippe De Cacqueray mentions, “TotalEnergies has been working in the North Sea for decades, investing in major offshore projects, providing the UK with energy and supporting thousands of jobs. We’re a reliable and strong partner for Scotland and we’re committed to the energy transition.

“With 1,000 employees in Aberdeen and a formidable network of contractors and suppliers across the rest of Scotland, our ScotWind bid is a key part of our energy transition strategy for a just transition in Scotland, for both us and our supply chain. That’s why we recently opened our UK Offshore Wind Hub in Aberdeen.”

Choosing to focus on just one site, the consortium has created a tailored bid which uses the natural attributes of the area with the aim of realising significant economic benefits.

This will allow the group to hone investment into the local infrastructure and businesses in key areas in an effective manner, says Northam, “We have included in our bid a £140 million initiative to develop the Scottish supply chain and harbour infrastructure specifically around this project. Should our bid be successful, we will be able to make this investment even before a final investment decision on the project has been taken.

“Supporting the supply chain and ensuring that Scottish companies are ready to win contracts from the offshore wind development from the ScotWind round bid is critical to our approach.
“Ports and harbours will be funded too, ensuring that the infrastructure around the West of Orkney Windfarm is well established and fit for purpose for seriously large pieces of equipment. 

“By the time we propose to deliver our project, we are talking about 18-megawatt wind turbines, so really substantial equipment, port infrastructure and facilities are going to be essential.”

De Cacqueray goes into more detail about the £140m of funding and how it will help the initial stages of the development, “We have announced commitments to fund value-creating engineering activities and to invest in identified business cases with supply chain partners. 

“We do not want to wait. Right from the beginning we want to build and invest heavily in our relationship with the whole supply chain to create globally competitive suppliers here in Scotland.”

Northam continues, “We are not just going to deliver offshore wind generating capacity, we will also create a hydrogen production facility on the island of Flotta. The development of green hydrogen is going to be fundamental to the Scotland’s transition.”

The proposed green hydrogen production facility, called the Flotta Hydrogen Hub, will be created in partnership with Respol Sinopec, owner and operator of the Flotta Terminal, and Uniper, a pioneer in the field of green hydrogen production. 

The potential for Scotland to be a leader in green hydrogen is real, Northam says, “Using wind-generated electricity effectively to make green hydrogen; establishing a major production facility and export hub in Scotland is enormously compelling.

“I think there is a massive opportunity for Scotland off the back of the ScotWind programme to develop as a European leader in green hydrogen, in production and exportation.”

Hay echoes the comments made by Northam, saying, “Hydrogen in Scotland could be an exciting export opportunity, because it requires the technologies and skills that the north-east economy is known for around the world. 

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for skills transition, company transition and industrial transition of the Scottish economy.”

The creation of highly skilled jobs across Scotland would be vastly boosted in the event of a successful bid. 

According to De Cacqueray, the financial investment proposed by the consortium, along with the magnitude of the project, will create another reason for the talented next generation to stay and work in the north of Scotland. “By investing in the region, the scale of opportunity and what we are offering in terms of partnerships with bodies like the University of Highlands and Islands, we hope will be a major draw,” he says.

“What we are hoping to do is create the dynamism that in turn creates more opportunities for communities in the Highlands and Islands for young people to stay and have diverse careers and to enjoy the economic benefits that come from major projects like this.”

The impact of the consortium’s work is already visible in the north of Scotland, laying the foundations for what more could come.

“It’s a real opportunity for kids that are in school right now that are considering going to college or university, and thinking about what this could mean for jobs at the end of their academic career. 

“It is going to motivate these children. We are therefore investing significantly in STEM activities to make sure that we can tap into these kids in the north of Scotland and give them some enthusiasm for offshore wind that they then can latch onto and turn into a successful career path.

“It is hugely important for Scotland, and we are trying to create that path for people that want to take it.” 

This article was sponsored by Total Energies.

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