‘Frustration’ on jobs mixed with optimism
Paul Wheelhouse said he believes there is “still an opportunity” for Scotland to get into the business of building huge floating wind projects if it embraces some of the technology used in oil and gas.
Trade unions have recently criticised the Scottish and UK Governments for “missing the boat” on manufacture and supply chain contracts – with the lion’s share of Scotland’s two floating projects to date being designed and built elsewhere.
Burntisland Fabrication (BIFab) missed out on a deal to fabricate the 50 megawatt (MW) Kincardine Floating Wind Farm, set to start construction off the coast of Aberdeen.
Equinor’s Hywind Scotland project also used only a small number of north-east companies.
Mr Wheelhouse said: “It’s still early stage. I think there are huge opportunities to use some of the technology that’s been used in the oil and gas sector in the pas – bread and butter stuff that was used in the Ninian field and others in the North Sea at the early stages of the oil and gas boom.
“There is opportunity still an for this technology to be developed here and we have led in the demonstration in Scotland.
“But it’s been frustrating that the Scottish supply chain hasn’t been used more in past projects.”
Mr Wheelhouse added: “We’re not yet at the size we need, but we do know the direction we need to go down to achieve it.
“What is missing at the moment is an effective route to market for floating wind and that is in the power of the UK Government.
“We will certainly be encouraging them to think around how to innovate the current licences and power purchase agreements (PPAs), which actually supports bringing this technology to fruition.
“Floating in theory should be cheaper than fixed bottom offshore wind in the longer term and therefore if you follow the logic, that is absolutely the space we should be in.”
Last month, a report by Strathclyde University said floating wind would “likely remain” in shallower waters without significant investment. It said the sector needs UK and Scottish Government support if it wants to maintain “vital” renewable energy trade links with Europe.
Asked if Scotland is up to the challenge, Mr Wheelhouse said: “I believe so.
“We know that the committee on climate change have also said that we need 75 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind at UK level.
“Obviously, given the share of UK seas that Scotland has, approaching more than half of the UK waters,thereforethatgives us a huge opportunity there.”
“We do know the direction we need to go down”
Mixed emotions: Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse