Highland council has just (22nd February 2017) confirmed planning approval for a £93 million Marine Harvest Feed Plant for Skye and for the prototype of a revolutionary new type of Floating Multi Turbine Platform to be sited near Dounreay. According to Highland Council: ‘these two projects will bring hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds in investment to the North.’
Work on the Feed Plant is expected to start within one month. The developers, Marine Harvest, have already successfully built and integrated a similar plant into the Norwegian economy, in 2014 and describe the project as:
‘This is a great opportunity to build a partnership with the local community throughout the project development. Once we are operational we will not only have the direct work force but will be aiming to establish a local supply chain in the same manner as we did in Norway. The opportunity for generating sustainable jobs in the area cannot be understated and I am really looking forward to encouraging as much of this as possible moving forward.’
The prototype floating wind turbines near Dounreay are expected to require a workforce of about 100 people at Nigg Energy Park in Ross-shire.
There are tremendous advantages in floating wind turbines and their wider use in Scottish waters will further consolidate the ability of Scotland’s already impressive wind power to provide constant supply. Stanford University has summarised the advantages:
- The first and most immediately compelling advantage of floating offshore wind is access to incredible wind resource over deep waters. Currently we can only access a small fraction of the offshore wind resource worldwide due to depth constraints.
- Offshore wind is recognized for its proximity to load centers but often still encounters significant NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) resistance. Population centers tend to cluster near the coastlines, so offshore wind minimizes the distance from generation to load centers, without competing for valuable land. Opponents argue, however, that turbines negatively impact the skyline (visual pollution) or result in disruptive noise. Floating turbines address these concerns by allowing wind farms to be pushed farther offshore and out of sight.
- Finally, there are also several manufacturing advantages to floating platforms, such as using less material in construction and reducing the need for specialty marine engineering expertise. One major cost driver for conventional offshore wind are the heavy lift vessels required to erect the turbine. Very expensive special purpose ships are required to transport the parts on site and perform the assembly. Floating turbine platforms, however, are designed to be assembled in port and towed into position using simple barges or tugboats. This can result in major cost savings and greatly increased flexibility in construction.
The steady flow of good news for Scotland is out there. If I can find it….?