Lewis offshore wind ‘commitments’

The Canadian company which will develop a major windfarm off the west side of Lewis made “commitments” to spend half a billion pounds in the Scottish supply chain as part of its successful application.

By Brian Wilson
Friday, 6th May 2022, 9:01 am
Canadian firm Northland are already a major player in the offshore wind sector.
Canadian firm Northland are already a major player in the offshore wind sector.

While there is no breakdown of how much would be retained within the Western Isles, the scale of opportunity will heighten pressure for investment in local infrastructure, to create the potential for work within the islands to be maximised.

In an accompanying statement, Northland Power said: “We foresee a future in which the development, construction and operation of (this project) acts as a catalyst for a new wave of skilled jobs in the Western Isles and the Highlands, offering new opportunities to help retain and return the younger people who are the lifeblood of these communities. As the world grapples with the transition towards net‐zero, our plans to develop green hydrogen capabilities have been informed by real‐world discussions and will be a vital element of securing these areas’ future for the generations to come”.

Northland, along with other successful bidders in the ScotWind round, were asked to state both “commitments” and “aspirations” in relation to the supply chain. The Scottish Government set relatively low prices for the licences in the hope of securing stronger supply chain commitments.

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However, Crown Estate Scotland who managed the process on behalf of the Scottish Government has warned that the challenges in delivering them “should not be underestimated” while there are doubts within the industry if the “commitments” are legally enforceable.

Colin Palmer, marine director for Crown Estate Scotland, said: “It will require a truly collaborative approach from all involved to ensure the huge potential is realised.”

So far, the Scottish Government has set its face against demands that the £700 million raised by the licensing round should be committed to relevant infrastructure. The three projects in Outer Hebridean waters account for £31.5 million – but there are no assurances about any of it being invested locally.

The figures were part of the licence bids and were published last week. Developers were asked to differentiate between Scotland, Rest of the UK, EU and “Elsewhere”.

Under “commitments” in relation to the west of Lewis project, which will be the first to proceed, Northland said they will spend in Scotland £60 million during the development stage; £140 million on manufacturing and fabrication; £120 million on installation and £150 million on operations over six years.

Under “manufacturing and fabrication”, the EU figure is £300 million while £250 million is earmarked for “Elsewhere”. These figures reflect the current inability of the Scottish supply chain to produce large structures required for offshore wind.

Under “aspirations”, the Northland numbers for the Scottish supply chain in relation to the West of Lewis project are higher – totalling around £850 million as opposed to the £500,000 million “commitments”.