The results of the ScotWind offshore wind leasing round – the first in Scotland for over a decade – have reverberated around the industry.
Crown Estate Scotland, which manages the seabed around the country, awarded option rights to 17 new projects with a deployment potential up to 24.8GW. That’s around enough to power all the households in the UK, and just 0.2GW shy of all the installed offshore wind capacity in Europe today. The ambition on show from Crown Estate Scotland and The Scottish Government demonstrates a strong desire to fast-track the sector’s growth.
From 74 bids submitted, successful projects ranged from the 2.9GW bottom-fixed site off the east coast, to a 495MW floating site off the Western Isles. Three-fifths of the total has been earmarked for floating projects – marking the dawn of commercial-scale floating wind and making ScotWind the biggest floating wind award ever.
Taylor Hopkinson has been active in Scotland’s offshore wind sector since our inception in 2009. We’ve been instrumental in helping to build some of the industry’s earliest development and project teams, and we’re already working with some of the successful ScotWind bidders on their project plans.
Now that we’ve had time to digest the results, let’s look at three key areas where ScotWind will be transformative for Scotland and the UK.
It sets the skills agenda for decades to come
With 17 new projects coming online in the coming decades, ScotWind has created an environment where tens of thousands of jobs will be available for Scottish workers – a chance to build a diverse, inclusive industry on a scale that only happens once in a generation. The scope is enormous and wide-ranging, and we must ensure that we take decisive action to increase equality and participation in the sector.
The number of people needed to construct and operate 17 offshore wind farms is, in itself, considerable. But the country also faces a race to build the associated infrastructure so that projects can be connected to the grid – then there are the transmission system upgrades, hydrogen off-takes, new industrial plants, and the expansion of port infrastructure that support construction and the ongoing asset operations. The entire supply chain and renewables service sector must evolve to meet demands from the development and ongoing operation of Scotland’s future net zero energy grid.
The industry will require a significant injection of new talent at every level, from junior resource analysts and engineers to mechanical engineers and senior project consenting experts. And with the increasing deployment of AI, machine learning and autonomous systems in surveying and O&M, many jobs of the future are going to depend heavily on technology.
ScotWind presents an opportunity to align national curricula with a key growth industry that we can now say with certainty is going to be here for the long-term. Industry and academia must now work together to ensure there are enough people with the skills to fill these roles as the demand for these cutting-edge technologies grows.
In addition, we’ll see growth for renewables-adjacent sectors like harbours, heavy industry and hydrogen – and there’s a real opportunity to link academic training qualifications to the industry’s medium-to-long-term needs.
Transition of skills from non-renewables sectors will put the industry in a strong position, and that must begin ramping up development now – if not, the skills and services won’t be there in 10-15 years when we need them. Such a link-up would cement Scotland’s place as a world-leading innovation centre for green energy deployment and training.
With a project pipeline stretching decades ahead, there will be none of the boom and bust commodity cycles witnessed in oil and gas, which has made it a difficult industry around which to plan long-term talent evolution. We know now with confidence that the jobs will be there – the first round of ScotWind projects will be operating for 30 years, so there’s now a 40-plus year window until these assets begin decommissioning. Offshore wind is here to stay, and the next generation will be reaping the benefits in terms of stable, well-paid, high-skilled jobs.
It’s a massive boost for local supply chains
ScotWind’s 17 projects will cover over 7,000km2 of seabed, and sites range from the Western Isles to the north coast, north-east and eastern Central Belt. That means a number of new ports will be needed to build and maintain the winning projects. According to analysis by ORE Catapult, if 12GW of floating capacity is deployed by the mid-2030s, these projects will require 670 substructures, more than 2,300km of mooring lines, 1,300km of dynamic inter-array cables, 2,200km of export cables, and 17 offshore sub-stations.
Delivering these locally will require an enormous increase in infrastructure and supply chain capacity. At the same time, local content targets were factored into the lease process, and under the CfD scheme firms are also subject to local content requirements. Firms have therefore made clear commitments to using local resources, and it is difficult to imagine a scenario where yards in Scotland and around the UK fail to benefit.
It’s an enormous step toward delivering net zero
The announcement shows enormous ambition on the part of the Scottish Government to get to net zero emissions. Already five years ahead of Westminster in its targets, ScotWind represents a great stride towards meeting those ambitions. Coupled with Holyrood’s support for energy storage, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as it looks to clean up industry, heat and other difficult-to-decarbonise sectors, the addition of 25GW of clean power unlocks the potential for wider electrification and looks set to make Scotland the net zero energy capital of the UK and potentially even Europe.