Almost seven times more onshore wind capacity was installed than offshore, during the forty-month period ending April 2012. Just 180MW of new Scottish offshore capacity was built, compared with 1.2GW of onshore, between January 2009 and April 2012.
The modest scale of Scotland’s offshore wind sector is highlighted by the data, released by trade body Scottish Renewables. It is especially noteworthy, given the 10.3GW of offshore capacity earmarked for seven marine zones off Scottish shores.
Despite boasting some of the world’s best offshore wind resources, Scotland has just one operational commercial offshore wind farm. The 180MW Robin Rigg project in Solway Firth was fully commissioned in 2010. Apart from the 10MW Beatrice demonstration project, the E.ON-owned wind farm represents Scotland’s total installed offshore wind capacity.
Scottish Renewables’ data puts total investment in Scottish offshore wind at £589m (€748.9m) during the 40-month period, or £3.1m per MW. This is more than double the investment cost of onshore capacity, at £1.4m/MW. Scottish offshore wind's investment cost was also higher than solar photovoltaics’, which was calculated at £2.8m/MW.
There were just under 1,000 Scottish offshore wind jobs – 943 – in 2011/12, according to Scottish Renewables. Some of these jobs may represent staff employed by Scottish energy companies, such as SSE and ScottishPower Renewables, that are active in English waters.
Factors likely to have held back Scotland’s offshore wind industry include the competitive advantages enjoyed by onshore wind, as well as the dominance of its offshore gas sector.
Nevertheless, there are signs that offshore wind projects planned off Scotland’s east coast are progressing. A consent application for the first phase of the 3.5GW Firth of Forth zone will be submitted this month, as recently reported by Windpower Offshore. And last month, Mainstream Renewable Power submitted its consent application for the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe project.