Scotland’s floating wind farm officially opens

The world’s first floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland exported electricity to the grid for the first time this week. The ground breaking development fifteen miles from Peterhead in the North East of the country was formally opened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday.

The project, developed by Norwegian state energy company Statoil, consists of five 6MW Siemens Gamesa machines atop Navantia-made floating spar foundations which are suitable for water depths of up to 800 metres. A one megawatt-hour lithium battery storage solution called Batwind will also be installed as part of the project.

Floating turbines have been installed on about 2.5 square miles (four sq km) of water in the North Sea, where the average wind speed is about 10 metres per second. At 175m from sea surface to blade tip they extend another 78 metres below the surface and are chained to the seabed to stay in place.

Norwegian energy firm Statoil has been working on developing the project, known as Hywind, for more than 15 years. The floating approach allows turbines to be installed in much deeper waters than conventional offshore wind farms.

This wind farm is positioned in water depths of up to 129m, whereas those fixed to the seabed are generally at depths of up to 50m. Statoil says up to 80 per cent of potential offshore wind sites are in waters more than 60m deep. The company believes floating turbines have the potential to work in depths of up to 800m.

The first minister said the project, which will generate enough power for about 20,000 homes, was testament to Scotland’s “international reputation” for renewable energy.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland has developed an international reputation for modern, renewable energy technologies and Hywind Scotland – the world’s first floating wind farm – is testament to that.

“This pilot project underlines the potential of Scotland’s huge offshore wind resource and positions Scotland at the forefront of the global race to develop the next generation of offshore wind technologies. In addition to the green benefits of renewable energy, it also has a very significant contribution to make to our economy.

“I’m pleased Scottish suppliers have contributed to the Hywind project from the development through to the production phase and are still involved to investigate long-term potential for floating wind. This has been possible through the unique support which we have made available in Scotland.”

Environmental campaigners also welcomed the opening, with Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland, “With around a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind resource in Scotland, it’s great to see the world’s first floating wind farm inaugurated off our coast.

“Offshore wind is already an industrial success story across the UK, cutting emissions, creating jobs and dramatically driving down costs.

“By demonstrating the commercial viability of floating wind, Scotland can help to develop the industry in new frontiers and deeper waters. With this kind of innovation and investment, and continued political support, Scotland will continue to power towards our target of securing half of all our energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.”

Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack said: “Hywind’s presence in Scottish waters is a reminder that, as the windiest country in Europe, and with some of the deepest waters and most promising offshore wind sites, Scotland is perfectly placed to capitalise on floating turbine technology.

“That deployment, through sites like Hywind and the Kincardine project further south will help lower costs for this young sector, increasing the opportunity for Scotland to take advantage of a significant future global market.”

We previously wrote about the Hywind project when the turbines were first floated back in August and we are delighted to report the official project launch. Wind generation has proven to be clean, reliable, and cost effective. When it comes to producing electricity it is the most advanced of the renewable technologies. Wind speeds are higher on average offshore and the extra distance these floating turbines can be set at increases potential capacity even further.

After a period of production it is expected that the technology will be rolled out to all Scottish offshore waters increasing our generation capacity and continuing to make positive strides towards our goal of 100% of electricity generated from renewable sources.

We believe that this week is a landmark in achieving this goal and will be remembered as such for many years to come.

Scotland’s Public Energy Company

At the SNP party conference earlier this week in Glasgow First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to create a new state owned energy provider. The main aims of this new venture would be to promote renewable energy generation and help reduce rising energy costs for consumers.

Energy generated or resold by the new company would be available across Scotland as an alternative to privately owned providers such are Scottish Power, Scottish Gas, and Scottish and Southern Energy.

In her announcement Ms Sturgeon claimed that the company would be incorporated by 2021, supplying both electricity and gas and would give consumers in Scotland the option to switch to a supplier only concerned with securing the lowest price for customers.

Ms. Sturgeon also stated that the company would be fully operational by end of the current parliament and that more details will be set out in the government’s forthcoming energy strategy.

“Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland – renewable, of course – and sold to customers as close to cost price as possible,” she said. “No shareholders to worry about. No corporate bonuses to consider. “It would give people – particularly those on low incomes – more choice and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers.”

Both the Labour and Conservative Parties have recently announced energy price cap policies with Labour also having recently suggested a not for profit energy provider. Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley accused the SNP of “passing off” his party’s policies as her own and an attempt to address fears among senior SNP strategists of a Labour revival in Scotland. However the SNP had pledged to explore the option of a new publicly owned, not for profit energy company during the campaign for last year’s Holyrood election.

Responding to Ms Sturgeon’s speech, Mr Rowley said: “From a not-for-profit energy company to teacher training bursaries, action on period poverty and promises on public sector pay, this conference shows that it is Labour which is setting the policy agenda in Scotland.”

Emma Grant McColm, energy spokesperson for the Citizens Advice Scotland Consumer Futures Unit last night cautiously backed the announcement. “We would welcome any intervention that genuinely increases fairness for energy consumers,” she said.

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said a state-owned energy firm could provide a “one-stop-shop” or gateway to accessing public funds.

We at ILI Energy see both positives and negatives in this announcement however it also raises many questions which we believe have to be answered sufficiently prior to it becoming operational. As they plan to generate at least some of the energy it will be providing they will have to own energy generation installations.

Will it be developing these themselves or will they be looking to purchase them from developers? How does this affect planning for such developments especially since the Scottish Government is currently involved in the planning stages of large scale installations?

As they also plan to buy energy and effectively be a reseller much in the same way as Robin Hood Energy and Bristol Energy in England who will they be buying it from and will they have long term power purchase agreements? How will they decide who to buy it from?

Also how will these meet concerns with competition regulations? As stated we are not against this however we strongly believe that a lot has to be satisfied before it can become viable.

That said we are very much for affordable clean energy for all and if this is a mechanism which can achieve this in a way which is commercially fair then it could be beneficial for all of Scotland.