A major leasing round expected to generate more than £8 billion of investment in Scottish offshore wind projects opened to applicants today.
ScotWind organiser Crown Estate Scotland (CES) said prospective developers had until March 31 to apply for seabed rights, which would pave the way for them to build the country’s “next generation” of wind farms.
CES announced in June that the licensing round – the first of its kind in a decade – would be launched and invited investors and developers to register their interest.
Much of the available acreage is located off the north and north-east coasts.
Highland port and yard bosses have said ScotWind could create a 50-year pipeline of work, hailing it as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” that could transform the region.
Scottish yards have struggled to compete for contracts with overseas rivals for the manufacture of key offshore wind farm equipment.
Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) missed out on a lucrative contract to build foundation jackets for the Seagreen wind farm, off Angus.
In October, the Scottish Government withdrew financial support from BiFab, citing state aid rules as a barrier, which killed off any lingering hopes of the firm building jackets for the NnG project, in the outer Firth of Forth.
BiFab, which has yards in Fife and Arnish, is now in administration.
Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse previously described ScotWind as “pivotal” for the expansion of Scotland’s offshore wind sector.
In its Offshore Wind Policy Statement, published in October, Holyrood noted that CES would introduce commitments for developers to set out opportunities for domestic companies as part of ScotWind, with “contractual consequences” for those that failed to comply.
CES, which manages the seabed around the coast, has now opened the application window and provided further technical details allowing those registered to make informed bids.
The organisation’s head of energy and infrastructure, John Robertson, described today’s development as an “important milestone” in the process.
Mr Robertson said: “We are looking forward to receiving applications and continuing to work with all interested groups over the coming months.
“Over the last three years, we’ve engaged extensively with industry and other interested groups about the goals and ambitions of ScotWind Leasing.
“This has helped ensure a robust and clear process that can successfully deliver the projects of the future and play a big role in Scotland’s net zero ambitions.”
Brian McFarlane, co-chair of the Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council and SSE Renewables’ head of projects, offshore renewables, said: “Offshore wind is already a key part of Scotland’s low-carbon energy mix, and there is huge potential to grow and develop the sector for the benefit both of our environment and our economy.
“It is great that following on from the publication of Marine Scotland’s Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy late last year, developers can now put their preparations to apply for the right to build future projects in Scottish seas into action.
“It’s exciting to see the ScotWind process reach this important milestone, which is a vital step along the way to unleashing the huge potential that Scotland’s seas hold for the development of offshore wind.
“In addition to being a tool to help meet our national net-zero targets, this leasing round also has the potential to develop and establish major economic benefits for many Scottish communities.”