Richard Eakin, Project Director for MarramWind and CampionWind
It was great to see the industry come together in person for Scottish Renewables’ and RenewableUK’s Floating Offshore Wind Conference and get a chance to discuss how we will deliver on the incredible scale of opportunity floating offshore wind represents not just for our businesses, but for people, communities and supply chains right across the country.
I was particularly pleased to take part in a panel session with several colleagues from across the industry, where we discussed the delivery of the ScotWind opportunity, what the challenges are and how we can overcome them.
This is an unprecedented time for the industry with a hugely ambitious pipeline of offshore wind projects across the UK – largely driven by recent leasing rounds – that will require a level of investment we’ve never seen before. What’s really exciting is that around a third of the current offshore pipeline across the UK comprises of floating wind projects and that’s set to be a real game changer for us all.
ScottishPower Renewables’ joint venture floating offshore projects with Shell – MarramWind and CampionWind – will have the capacity to deliver up to 5GW of clean, green electricity from Scottish waters. That’s enough clean energy to power the equivalent of more than six million homes and the projects – alongside others like them – open up tremendous opportunities across the supply chain in Scotland and across the UK.
Realising these opportunities and the ambitions we all have will require a national effort and it was so encouraging to see a real commitment to collaboration and cooperation across the public and private sectors at the conference.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy – we have to be realistic in terms of what can be achieved in certain timelines. Key to this will be having the right people, skills and resources in place and that means getting more people into the industry and across the supply chain to support the growth that will be needed.
What we need to remember is that the engineers, technicians, planners and managers who will support the construction of some of these projects are currently at secondary school. And for the projects that will come later, they’re even at primary school. And that’s who we need to be engaging with – now – if we’re going to bring them in to the industry. Their generation is already convinced of how essential it is to accelerate the drive to net zero, so it is up to us to show them how they can contribute to this by making their careers in floating offshore wind.
That’s why we’ve been working with our partners in Shell and the National Energy Skills Accelerator (NESA) to explore the potential for a Floating Wind Skills Accelerator with the aim of opening up opportunities – supported by a comprehensive skills programme – in the north-east of Scotland and across the country to establish the green workforce needed for a clean energy future.
Supported initiatives could include STEM education workshops for primaries and secondaries, work experience, apprenticeships and internships, graduate and returner programmes as well as industry placements. Collectively, this could create pathways all the way from primary school to a professional and sustainable career in the renewable energy sector.
Alongside this, we’ve already committed – alongside Shell – to providing a £25 million Supply Chain Stimulus Fund for each of our floating wind projects. This will directly support the Scottish supply chain as it prepares the infrastructure and facilities required – helping ensure they are ready to play a major part in the construction of these offshore wind projects.
But, as I said during my panel session, there are of course plenty of challenges to be overcome – for example, there’s a lot of discussion around the technology options available and how we best facilitate the path to the commercialisation of floating offshore wind. In my view, a level of cooperation and alignment is needed between developers, where appropriate, to ensure this can proceed at pace.
We also need to see a defined policy hierarchy that affords significant weight to tackling the climate emergency and a much clearer consenting route map to increase the speed, consistency and predictability of decision-making, while ensuring robust scrutiny and challenge. It is also critical that these giant windfarms are able to connect to the grid as early as possible and that the required network upgrade projects also progress rapidly during this decade.
However, what came across loud and clear from every single person I met at Floating Offshore Wind is the dedication, drive and determination of everyone involved to overcome the challenges and deliver our ambitions for floating wind.
Floating wind creates a massive pipeline that will support years of employment and give the country and the economy the kind of boost we saw decades ago when oil and gas developers moved into the North Sea.
It puts us in prime position to become the world leader in floating wind and the key driver in a new global green industry, with the potential to become an exporter in skills, services and products. Speed is now critical if we are to achieve these goals and maintain our primacy in this industry.
I’m proud and excited to be a part of that transformation and, as the Floating Offshore Wind conference showed, it’s clear I’m not the only one!