Opportunities for Highlands and Islands' businesses in the offshore wind industry will be promoted at an event in Inverness on Tuesday (February 2).
In January 32GW of additional offshore wind energy generation was sanctioned for the UK through The Crown Estate's third leasing round, signalling potential for billions to be invested in the sector over the next decade.
At a supply chain event at the Drumossie Hotel organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and The Crown Estate, finance secretary John Swinney will be sending a special video message to delegates.
Mr Swinney explained: “The offshore wind industry will experience huge growth over the next 10 years with around £20 billion set to be invested in Scottish waters. That presents massive opportunities to build a strong and vibrant supply chain in many sectors. Alongside our considerable human capital, we have a globally recognised expertise in offshore engineering, scientific capacity, manufacturing and innovation – immense qualities needed to gear up to an immense opportunity. This will be a highly productive event for the industry and I look forward to hearing of the beneficial relationships that ensue.”
Among the other speakers will be William Roe, chair of HIE; Sandy Park, Highland Council convener; Dermot Grimson and Alastair Dutton from The Crown Estate; Ian Couper of North of Scotland Industries Group; Dan Finch and Stephen Kerr representing successful developer partners including SeaEnergy, EDPR and SSE Renewables and John Sinclair – representing Tier 1 contractor SubOcean.
William Roe, HIE chair said: “The UK is emerging as the world leader in the development of wind energy, presenting significant contract opportunities. The region has superb on and offshore wind resources and, thanks in part to the legacy of the oil and gas industry in this part of the world, we also have much of the infrastructure, engineering capacity and skilled workforce needed to seize these new opportunities.”
Many of the fabrication and yard operators in the Highlands and Islands are already experienced renewables manufacturers including Welcon in Argyll; BiFab at Arnish on Lewis and Isleburn in Easter Ross, and they join a multitude of other skilled businesses ready to bid for work.
Among those invited to the February 2 event will be the successful Round 3 developers and some Tier 1 contractors together with representatives from organisations such as the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change and the industry trade body Scottish Renewables.
Rob Hastings, The Crown Estate's Director of the Marine Estate, said: “The industry is proposing that 25% of the UK's electricity demand will be met from offshore wind by 2020 and this represents a massive long term investment opportunity for the Highlands and Islands.
“It has the potential to generate thousands of jobs throughout the UK, and our event in Inverness is the ideal opportunity for the business community in the Highlands and Islands to find out how they can benefit from the growth in the offshore wind sector.”
Ian Couper, chief executive of the North of Scotland Industries Group, said: “Developers across the globe are now realising that this region has the capacity and expertise to deliver solutions for next generation energy provision. HIE and NSIG are working with industry operators – making them aware of opportunities and industry timescales and introducing them to developers – and this is bearing fruit. There is a growing awareness that this is the place to be for renewable energy opportunities.”
HIE is represented on the Forum for Renewable Energy Development for Scotland's (FREDS) Offshore Wind Industry Group. It works closely with the Scottish and UK Governments, local authorities and The Crown Estate enabling the agency to act as an energy information hub in the region.
Audrey MacIver, joint head of HIE's energy team explained: “We are convinced the business community in the Highlands and Islands has the capacity and experience to support the delivery of these large scale infrastructure projects proposed for UK waters. Through events such as this, we hope to stimulate contact between our own industry and the project developers responsible for delivery of the offshore wind projects – contacts that have potential to generate real and substantial business benefits for the region over the longer term.”