Scotland can be a global leader in floating offshore wind if it learns from the birth of North Sea oil industry – Bryan Schueler

The next few months will be vital to the future development of floating offshore wind in Scotland and the sheer scale of the opportunity means this period will be of equal significance for the Scottish economy as a whole.

Oil rig components are assembled at Nigg Bay at the eastern end of the Cromarty Firth in about 1965 (Picture: Frank Tewkesbury/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Oil rig components are assembled at Nigg Bay at the eastern end of the Cromarty Firth in about 1965 (Picture: Frank Tewkesbury/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

While much will depend on securing as much work as possible for the domestic supply chain in North Sea projects, an equally large and exciting prize lies in the opportunities which will open up for exporting to the world.

Scotland is about to become a global leader in floating offshore wind and the expertise developed here can then be exported to every corner of the world, wherever the wind blows. But we have got to be sure first that the supply chain is nurtured by whoever secures the ScotWind licences this month, the first round of offshore wind leasing in Scottish waters for a decade.

If we don’t win at home, we can’t win away. That is why the evaluation of bids is so important with the credibility of commitments put under serious scrutiny. The stakes are too high to get this wrong and the internationalisation opportunity for the Scottish and wider UK supply chains should be a major consideration.

There are strong parallels with how the North Sea oil industry developed. Half a century ago when it was in its infancy, it was necessary to build a supply chain virtually from scratch. Within a few years, there was 70 per cent UK content in North Sea projects. But that was only the start of it – and this is where there is a critical lesson to be learned at present.

Local companies which started in the North Sea went on to become international giants, to be found wherever there is offshore oil and gas. It was a great story of growth and enterprise and, with the right leadership and partners, the same can happen again. But it is so important to get it right from the start and the scale of what is being embarked upon has to be appreciated.

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That is where Invenergy can prove to be a key player – not just by investing in the ScotWind round and making bankable commitments to the domestic supply chain but, if successful, by creating a North American/UK energy alliance which will both affirm Invenergy’s continued commitment to Scotland and open up huge global possibilities.

Joined by BW Offshore, a leader in offshore floating solutions with 30 years of North Sea experience, the Invenergy/BWO joint venture combines more than just extensive experience in wind and offshore technologies.

Critically, Invenergy is the sole American lead applicant in the ScotWind process, and our global capabilities are well established, having successfully developed 189 sustainable energy projects totalling more than 29,000 megawatts of generation across the Americas, Europe and Asia.

The Invenergy and BWO joint venture is unique among the applicants as we have previously delivered offshore and onshore energy infrastructure as a partnership, as well as projects in Scotland individually. Our track record is key to realising Scotland’s offshore wind ambitions while minimising risk.

A partnership forged in the North Sea presents Scottish companies with a wealth of opportunity. If selected, Invenergy and BWO are committed to investing in the development and expansion of Scotland’s offshore wind supply chain – but beyond that, to carrying it into international markets where offshore wind is going to become increasingly prevalent.

To maximise local content opportunities and supply chain readiness, Invenergy/BWO will actively collaborate with suppliers, working groups, private and public sector bodies on project requirements and local content ambitions to prioritise and assist Scottish suppliers in developing their skills, capabilities and competitiveness. This is work that has to be done now, rather than kicked into touch.

The lesson to be learned from Scotland’s onshore wind experience is that if the supply chain is not there at the start, creating jobs and developing expertise, it is a very hard job to catch up later by which time the vacuum has been filled by imports. Why look in the crystal ball when the history book is so readily available?

Rather than redeploying existing staff, we’re committed to growing locally based project teams to execute ScotWind. We will also mobilise Scottish skills and expertise into future offshore wind projects on a global basis as we pursue a diverse pipeline of offshore projects.

Invenergy is already in the UK, and indeed Scotland, having recently gained consent to develop the Pencloe Wind Farm in East Ayrshire that will generate up to 85.5 MW. But we want to do a lot more and ScotWind creates that opportunity – not just for the lifetime of a project but for a lasting relationship which can keep Scottish companies at the forefront of a worldwide industry that is starting to experience exponential growth.

On top of our investment in Scotland’s supply chain and clean jobs workforce, we’ll invest in the local community. We take pride in our mission to build a more sustainable future and have a lasting impact on communities that host our projects, where our employees live and work.

The $258 million we invest annually in host communities, and the 167 million tons of carbon dioxide our projects have offset, confirm that business success and sustainability go hand in hand.

We look forward to bringing our commitment to responsible development and community engagement to ScotWind – and then taking the Scottish supply chain to the world.

Bryan Schueler is senior executive vice-president of Invenergy

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