Windfarms generate £165m before they start turning

Offshore farms have generated �165m for Scotland's economy. Picture: Getty
Offshore farms have generated �165m for Scotland's economy. Picture: Getty
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OFFSHORE wind farms have already generated £165 million for Scotland’s economy despite many projects having only just entered the planning system, according to figures released today ahead of a major industry event.

Some 40 per cent of the total invested has come in the past 12 months, according to trade body Scottish Renewables, which has organised Scotland’s biggest offshore supply chain conference to date in Aberdeen tomorrow and on Wednesday.

Much of the cash already spent on projects has been pumped into environmental and technical surveys, along with demonstration schemes.

It is the first time that the renewable energy industry has put a figure on the amount being spent specifically in the offshore wind sector.

Scottish Renewables said last November that investment in the entire alternative power sector – including ­hydro-electric schemes, onshore wind turbines and experimental wave and tidal devices – could have reached as much as £1.5 billion during 2012.

A previous report from the UK Energy Research Centre suggested the supply chain for the offshore wind industry could be worth up to £120bn.

Lindsay Leask, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “This level of investment, made in advance of projects gaining consents, shows the considerable confidence developers have in Scotland’s offshore wind sector.”

She said most of this current investment has been made in research, such as environmental surveys, technical engineering surveys and project demonstration. “However, this flow of private finance is also generating huge opportunities for the supply chain, and once consents for projects are granted this will both motivate new entrants and strengthen those existing companies who are already reaping the benefit of diversifying into this emerging sector.”

A report published last month by accountancy firm KPMG predicted that the renewables sector will start to catch up with the oil and gas sector this year in terms of mergers and acquisitions.

Lang Banks, director of environment charity WWF Scotland, said the figures would deal a blow to American tycoon Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticised plans for an offshore wind farm near his golf resort in Aberdeenshire.

“It will stick in Donald Trump’s craw to see, that despite all his bluster, Scotland is gaining new investment and jobs from its growing offshore wind industry,” Bank said.

“This news underlines that Scotland has become the place to come to develop marine renewable energy technology, including offshore wind.”

News of the investment comes just a day after Intertek – the FTSE 100 consultancy that Scottish Enterprise chief executive Lena Wilson joined last year – said developers should use local suppliers in order to obtain more favourable finance terms from banks.

James Hunt, Intertek’s head of offshore, energy and water consultancy, told Scotland on Sunday banks think such a move may help “de-risk” a project.

“Local companies know the weather and water conditions and investors look at those factors,” Hunt said. “But firms will still need to have experience in the offshore wind sector.”