The Highlands and Islands should capitalise on the “buzz” surrounding Scotland’s growing floating offshore wind sector, according to the region’s energy development chief.
Audrey MacIver, director of energy and low carbon at Scottish Government-financed Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said last night the north boasted the unique conditions needed to become a floating wind powerhouse.
She believes the region could hold the key to the local specialisms and infrastructure required to accommodate any future boom in the industry, if current challenges around the technology can be ironed out.
Ms MacIver said it was an “interesting opportunity” for the Highlands and Islands, following the publication of several potential development sites around the region’s coastlines by Marine Scotland last month.
She added: “One of the things around this particular marine plan is that it indicates a move further from shore and into deeper waters, and we anticipate that the next leasing round could see a move into floating wind technology.
“It creates a really interesting opportunity for this particular region, because of the expertise in the oil and gas space that many of our companies and businesses have.
“We also have the physical infrastructure to support build-out, operations and maintenance of the technology.
“Deep water quayside access will be needed, and that lends itself to the Cromarty Firth and Kishorn Port, so there’s a real opportunity for us here.”
The next ScotWind leasing round to decide likely sites should be confirmed within months.
Investment in north ports and harbours over the past decade has put the region top of the list for a number of offshore wind developers looking to establish a supply chain.
HIE figures show spending on the sector has totalled £271 million since 2010. The economic development agency’s own funding is worth nearly £59m.
Ms MacIver said floating wind “could play a big part” in Scotland’s future energy mix and also of the Highlands and Islands’ rapidly growing areas of expertise.
She warned “there are still challenges ahead” over the next few years in terms of proving the technology over the longer-term and the logistics around deployment at scale.
But she also said she was “heartened” to witness the success of Norwegian oil giant
Equinor’s five-turbine floating pilot project off the coast of Peterhead.
She said it had provided “much needed confidence” in the Scottish offshore wind sector and showcased the potential possible “integration” between the country’s renewable energy and oil and gas sectors.
Ms MacIver said floating wind could be a “real crossover” crossover technology, due to an abundance of expertise in the oil and gas sector which could have a major role to play in finding solutions to challenges facing the fledgling technology.