Making the most of Scottish wind power - Dan Jackson

The winds which blow around Scotland’s coastlines are one of the country’s biggest assets.

Dan Jackson, founding director, Cerulean Winds
Dan Jackson, founding director, Cerulean Winds

Harnessing that wind through offshore windfarms has helped propel the UK into pole position as the world leader in fixed offshore wind.

Now Scotland stands on the cusp of benefiting from what Cerulean Winds believes are even greater opportunities from floating offshore wind.

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A Cerulean wind proposal, currently sitting with Marine Scotland for seabed leasing consent, is for an integrated 200-turbine floating wind and hydrogen development across two windfarms, one to the West of Shetland and the other in the Central North Sea.

The scheme will accelerate the decarbonisation of oil & gas assets in the UKCS. These assets currently produce 18 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. This proposal would half those emissions by 2025 by generating enough power to electrify the majority of UKCS assets. Excess green power would be used to generate green hydrogen providing opportunities for export and to decarbonise other industrial sectors.

As a direct benefit to Scotland, it represents up to £10billion of potential investment in a single strategic infrastructure project. It requires no Government subsidies, but does require a more flexible and urgent approach to enabling projects of this scale to be in with any chance of meeting targets laid out in the recent North Sea Transition Deal.

If the oil and gas sector doesn’t drastically reduce CO2 emissions by the mid-2020s, incoming carbon taxes will see many North Sea fields become uneconomical and move them towards decommissioning by the end of the decade. That has concerning implications for our energy security because oil and gas will continue to be an essential part of our energy mix for the next 20 years or more.

The North Sea Transition Deal calls for a 25% reduction in oil and gas emissions by 2027. No other project currently in the pipeline can deliver to that timescale, so a bolder approach is needed to secure existing jobs and create a boom akin to that stimulated by the Forties oil and gas field in the 1970s.

Our proposal will help preserve more than 150,000 existing jobs in oil & gas through the transition, and accelerate the creation of many thousands of new jobs in the floating wind and hydrogen generation sectors.

While there are many similarities between fixed and floating offshore wind turbines, the opportunities come from the differences. Fixed asset maintenance is carried out offshore with little of the value coming to the local economy. Floating units are assembled on shore before being towed to location and connected to mooring lines. They can then be disconnected and towed back to shore for maintenance, service or technical upgrade.

In this proposal, the assembly of all the large components of the floating structures would be carried out in Scotland, feeding multi-million-pound contracts to local dock, quayside and shipyard facilities.

But the real-long term value to the Scottish economy comes from the service, operations and maintenance of floating wind farms, which can all be carried out quayside unlike fixed wind. Leases are allocated for 60 years, creating a long-term sustainable industry that provides security in jobs ranging from assembly and maintenance up to the high-tech employment associated with green energy hubs.

To begin this economic renaissance, decisions must be made now. Unless seabed leases are granted by Q3 2021, we can’t target the financial close in Q1 2022, which will enable construction to begin soon after in order to achieve offshore decarbonisation by the mid-2020s.

In November, Scotland will host COP26 when world leaders will meet to discuss climate change. Approval would be a real opportunity to demonstrate Scotland’s commitment to the climate change agenda.

Dan Jackson is founding director, Cerulean Winds

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