THE world’s biggest offshore wind farm is set to be built in Scotland with a multi-billion-pound investment, securing hundreds of jobs and further cementing the country’s position as a global leader in renewable energy.
The £4.5 billion project envisages up to 300 turbines in water 200ft deep more than 13 miles off Caithness, generating enough power for more than a million homes by 2020.
The wind farm would be a major boost to the Scottish Government’s target of generating 100 per cent of the country’s electricity demand from renewables by the end of the decade.
The international companies behind the scheme said the investment was a sign of confidence in Scotland as a place to invest in the offshore renewables market.
Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) is a joint venture between a Spanish/Portuguese company, EDP Renewables, and Spanish oil and gas firm Repsol Nuevas Energias UK, which was awarded a “zone development agreement” by the Crown Estate for offshore wind energy.
The wind farm would cover about 114sq miles and could produce up to 1,500MW of wind power, about the same as a conventional power station.
Each of the 200 to 300 turbines would be capable of delivering up to 7MW and would be supported on either concrete base structures or by tubular steel jackets, using technology developed by the North Sea oil and gas industry.
The power would be collected by up to eight offshore electrical platforms, before being sent ashore via a grid connection point at Peterhead power station.
MORL said companies operating in the Moray Firth area could take advantage of the new market – which could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds and support up to 1,400 jobs during construction, and 130 to 280 posts during operation and maintenance.
Launching a report on the project in Inverness yesterday, Dan Finch, managing director of EDPR UK, said: “Over the past year, we have worked hard to move offshore wind in deeper water from a proposal to a viable project.
“We are keen to work with the government and business agencies, which will be able to develop the supply chain and turn this new market into jobs and economic growth.”
Mr Finch said the joint venture, which has an office in Edinburgh, was prepared to spend £40-£50 million on planning and developing the project before an application was expected to be submitted to Marine Scotland in June or July next year.
Work is then hoped to start in 2015 for completion by 2020.
Last week, Chancellor George Osborne said major firms were reluctant to invest in Scotland because of the uncertainty of an independence referendum.
However, Mr Finch said: “We are developing an opportunity and investing significant sums of money because we see Scotland as the place to develop offshore wind.
“Our partners Repsol, a multinational Spanish oil company, have joined us in Edinburgh because they think this is the place to be as well.
“We made this decision consciously. We could have gone somewhere else.”
He said the project offered prospects of major fabrication and supply work for firms such as Global Energy, which announced recently it had taken over the former oil yard at Nigg in Easter Ross to develop as an oil and renewables base.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This is a welcome statement of the reality that company after company has announced jobs and investment in Scotland in recent months – including other major international energy firms such as Gamesa, Doosan Power Systems and Mitsubishi – and the Altium Securities investor report, which makes it clear that investment will continue whatever Scotland’s constitutional status, including independence.
“These developments demolish nonsensical claims made recently – the fact is there will be a continuing need for Scottish renewable electricity to be exported to help keep the lights on south of the Border.
“International corporations and domestic firms are investing for the future in Scotland’s world-leading renewables industry. There is a pipeline of 17 Gigawatts of renewable electricity projects – nearly three times peak Scottish demand – with estimated capital investment of £46bn, ready to create thousands of jobs in Scotland.
“For as long as the wind blows and the tides turn, that investment will continue.”
MORL also has plans to develop the Inch Cape offshore wind farm site in the outer Firth of Tay region, between nine and 14 miles to the east of Angus.
It is expected to consist of about 180 wind turbines covering an area of about 58sq miles with an estimated installed capacity of 1,000MW and a potential yield of 3,000 GWh per year.
Scotland has around a quarter of Europe’s potential offshore wind resources, with ideal conditions for technology which can harness the strong winds.
The east coast seabed has been identified as a particularly suitable location for offshore wind power. The largest offshore wind farm in the world, off the Kent coast, has 100 turbines with 300MW capacity at present.
Last year, Marine Scotland published a strategic environmental assessment for offshore wind energy. A short-term plan (up until 2020) proposed the development of ten sites, for which the Crown Estate has granted exclusivity agreements to developers. A medium-term plan, for 2020 to 2030, proposes a further 25 options for development.
Johanna Yates, Scottish Renewables offshore policy manager, said: “The substantial economic benefits anticipated by this project are a reflection of the scale of benefits this growing industry can bring.
“We anticipate as many as 28,000 new jobs created directly from offshore wind within the decade, with a further 20,000 employed in businesses supplying such projects amounting to £7 billion pounds of value added to our economy.”