One of China’s turbine giants could be poised to deliver a much-needed boost to Scotland’s wanting wind manufacturing sector.
Norfolk-headquartered Opergy will help the Chinese group to pinpoint ports and facilities that can house manufacturing facilities for turbines and foundations.
As part of that – and through its Opergy Scotland division – the energy advisory body is exploring opportunities north of the border, where hundreds of turbines will be installed in the coming years.
A UK branch in the pipeline
Mingyang, China’s largest privately owned wind turbine manufacturer, is currently in the process of creating a UK entity to spearhead its market entry.
Once complete, Opergy will begin working with the local team to “identify the right kind of port locations, facilities, partners, and the right kind of supply chain network that will be able to fabricate, install and maintain Mingyang designed turbines”.
Johnathan Reynolds, Opergy’s co-founder and managing director, said: “Mingyang want to do this as soon as practically possible. Everybody understands there is a level of urgency behind all of this – you only have to look at some of the plans around Scotwind, INTOG and the Celtic sea – to position Mingyang to potentially supply turbines to those projects.
“But it’s not just about securing turbine supply contracts; in the UK, and certainly in Scotland, it’s pointless if you haven’t got the port facilities and you’re not manufacturing those components in the UK.
“It’s a parallel process looking at building the manufacturing supply chain, identifying the right kind of locations and facilities to accommodate that manufacturing, and laying down everything else that goes with that.”
Some longed for manufacturing capacity
Scotland’s dearth of wind manufacturing capacity means, to date, there has been little domestic benefit derived from the numerous turbines spinning just a few miles off the coast.
It is hoped that Scotwind and INTOG – the two most recent leasing rounds – will mark a step change in that regard, though many have their reservations.
Political promises around green jobs have been a dime a dozen in the last decade, and unless a large part of the next generation of wind farms are made on Scottish soil, its likely history will repeat itself.
Isla Robb, Opergy Scotland’s MD, and formerly of Scottish Enterprise, said: “One thing that Opergy is involved in is the skills requirements for all clean energy sectors. We’re very well networked with training providers, and green jobs is something that we will be focusing on with Mingyang – there’s no point in building a factory if you’ve nobody to work within it.
“We need to make sure there are enough highly trained people doing the jobs that required, whether it be marshalling or factory work.”
She added: “This isn’t a case of Mingyang setting up shop and doing everything, but they will come and meet the supply chain, because there’s not enough turbine suppliers. That’s where our gap is, and if we can bring over a supplier to fill that gap, and then connect with local companies, that is where we can maximise the opportunity for UK and Scottish firms.”
Mr Reynolds said: “When we announced the partnership there was a sharp intake of breath from some, worried that China is just going to come in and steal the market.
“The reality is that Mingyang is moving away from being a Chinese supplier of turbine, electrolysers, battery storage, solar and everything else, and becoming a global original equipment manufacturer. Their intention is to manufacture in the UK.”