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Study flags Scotland’s potential for floating wind

8 Dec 21 A study funded by Germany-based energy company RWE has concluded that Scotland could become a world leader in producing low-carbon concrete foundations for floating offshore wind farms.

The demoSATH project in which RWE is a partner (credit: Saitec Offshore Technologies)
The demoSATH project in which RWE is a partner (credit: Saitec Offshore Technologies)

The study identified potential business opportunities from the current ScotWind seabed leasing round. It calls on Scottish politicians, project developers, suppliers and industry experts to join forces and investigate how best to unlock the potential, while maximising opportunities for local investment.

In terms of scale of opportunity, the study noted that just a single project would require a volume of low-carbon concrete potentially up to four times greater than that needed to build one of Scotland’s largest infrastructure projects, the Queensferry Crossing.

RWE’s UK country chair Tom Glover said: “Floating offshore wind and the current ScotWind leasing round represent a huge opportunity to develop a world-leading industry in Scotland. This report, commissioned by RWE, demonstrates the significant business potential from the manufacture of low-carbon concrete foundations, and makes clear that Scotland is best placed to realise that. Committed to invest around £15 billion through 2030 to expand its clean energy capabilities in the UK, including floating wind, RWE is keen to work in collaboration with all parties to maximise these opportunities for the country’s economy and workforce.”

RWE said that the study closes an important gap in the industry’s understanding of the scale and business potential of producing concrete foundations for floating offshore wind farms. It also further expands RWE’s knowledge of floating offshore wind, gained from three major floating wind technology trials it is undertaking with partners around the world.

The study was carried out in partnership with researchers at the UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, through its Floating Offshore Wind Centre of Excellence (FOWCOE). Ir was also supported by offshore wind industry experts at the Concrete Centre.

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Floating foundations use both steel and concrete designs, but most research in the UK to date has focused on steel designs. The study addressed this by testing the feasibility of a production facility, capable of building 33 concrete floating foundations for 15MW turbines each year.

Researchers reviewed Scotland’s existing experience and capabilities for producing specialist concrete focused on using low-carbon methods and materials. It found that both Scottish ports and industry have existing experience and skills from producing concrete at scale that can be applied to this low-carbon alternative. The country is therefore well placed to manufacture the foundations, attracting significant investment into the Scottish and UK supply chain, the study concluded.

Ralph Torr, programme manager at ORE Catapult’s Floating Offshore Wind Centre of Excellence, said: “Floating offshore wind presents Scotland with significant opportunities, but these come with some industrial challenges. Delivering the anticipated capacity of floating offshore wind will require scale-up and repurposing of supply chain capacity as well as the creation of new capabilities. That is why this assessment of the role that the concrete supply chain in Scotland can play in delivering large-scale floating wind projects is such an important step. It opens up new possibilities for Scotland’s leadership of floating offshore wind and how it can translate into tangible economic benefit.”

The study said that, to keep costs low and reduce the carbon footprint, concrete production should take place at or close to the quayside where the foundations would be deployed. It identified that there are four Scottish ports - Hunterston, Kishorn, Port of Cromarty Firth (Invergordon) and Ardersier, as well as clusters of potential sites, including the Cromarty Firth and the Forth and Tay, that could potentially meet the capacities required.

The study found that industry would need to invest significantly to ensure the infrastructure is in place to deliver the requirements. It called for more industry-wide work to investigate the business case for developing such a facility, and the steps required to trigger such investment.

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