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Offshore Wind: Scotland's Future

12 Sep 2019
Euan Lannon

Offshore Wind

Offshore Wind: Scotland’s Future

In June this year, the Royal Society of Edinburgh produced an enquiry titled Scotland’s Energy Future which identified some of the challenges facing the renewable energy sector. Earlier this year, Holyrood Magazine reported that enough energy was produced to power electricity in 88% of Scottish homes for a year – so how can the country and industry continue to lead and grow?

Scotland currently hosts 25% of offshore wind and tidal resources in Europe. With this proportion of offshore resource, it won’t come as a surprise that some of the biggest players in the market are operating in the country. Therefore, going forward, Scotland must continue to lead and grow on the world stage by focusing on these two key resources as we continue to develop new methods of meeting Scotland’s energy needs.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a report which included the cost posed by offshore wind in comparison to onshore wind. With offshore wind the more expensive of the two, arguments must be made to support continued investment in offshore projects.

One such argument is that offshore wind is more reliable in terms of regularity, power output and direction in comparison to onshore wind. The cost to implement and run may be more expensive, but with 25% of the offshore resource in Europe naturally the focus in Scotland should be on offshore. Despite the cost, the fact that offshore turbines tend to run more efficiently means that fewer turbines are required in order to produce the same amount of energy. This is one of many reasons Scotland finds itself at the heart of the renewable energy industry.

Offshore does not interfere with people’s day to day lives, which helps counter arguments around interfering with land rights and regarding the aesthetics of onshore wind. Scotland already is leading the way in with the world’s first offshore floating windfarm. The Moray East project and the Kincardine Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Stonehaven are examples of the development and future of Scottish offshore wind energy.

Of course, by holding 25% of offshore resource we aren’t just talking about wind. Scotland is also home to a significant amount of tidal power – which, if utilised to the full extent possible, could help Scotland achieve its climate targets.

Tidal Energy

­­­The Pentland Firth, the stretch of water between the north east of Scotland and the Orkney Islands, is argued to be one of best locations in the world for tidal energy. With so much offshore experience in Scotland on the back of oil and gas industries in the North Sea, it is no surprise that Scotland is seen as a world leader in tidal energy, attributable to Scotland’s location at the edge of the Atlantic.

Concerns, however, are voiced over the cost of tidal energy; developing tidal technology is substantially more expensive than that of wind energy.. However, with Scotland as a world leader and home to an incredible resource in terms of location and expertise, for the industry to thrive investment is key. It is important to note, however, that wave power can be strongly seasonal with an average of wave power in winter being five times that of summer.

As one of the world leaders in renewable energy, it is paramount that Scotland continues to lead the way in developing and improving new methods of harnessing our natural resources for renewable energy. Significant investment in both offshore wind, wave and tidal energy will help the industry grow and strengthen Scotland’s position as as a world leader and expert in renewables.

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