A NEW energy revolution is born in the North Sea today with the official opening of the world’s first floating windfarm.
Five, giant mega-structures with blades as wide as a jet-plane, some 15 miles off the Peterhead coast have been anchored as part of a major pilot project.
In theory, Hywind Scotland’s turbines will generate energy equivalent for at least 20,000 homes.
In reality, their power is much, much greater than that – fuelling a new era and momentum for renewables.
Whether by logical design or symbolic gesture, their new home in the North-East cheek by jowl with the aging oil-platforms that were once the lifeblood of the economy, marks a true changing of the guard.
Something not lost on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opening the Statoil created field officially today.
Her government at Holyrood has already staked a claim. The announcement of a not-for-profit power company, enhanced environmental initiatives including the phasing out of fossil fuel cars, and shift towards a legal ban on fracking.
In the eyes of the world Scotland’s credentials as a leading place for environmental good will be enhanced further by this Statoil creation.
While in domestic political policy, the SNP administration moves a step closer to cutting the cord to the oil economy argument that throttled their independence ambitions previously, while offering transition for the workforces involved.
She 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.
“Last month I set out our programme for government which made firm commitments to create a cleaner and greener Scotland, and the development of renewable energy is vital to achieve this.
“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.”
Among those welcoming the technological progress was Friends of the Earth Scotland Director Dr Richard Dixon.
He said today’s even would “make history” and described the advance as being “crucial” to Scotland’s journey towards becoming fossil-fuel free.
Dr Dixon said: “The wind farm opening off Peterhead is a sign of the great progress that Scotland has made in embracing the renewable energy revolution. Together with partners from around the globe we will make history with the world’s first ever floating wind farm.
“We can be rightly proud of the role that Scottish effort and ingenuity has played in bringing this ground breaking project to fruition.
“Recent events including a series of hurricanes and wildfires in California have once again brought the urgency of tackling climate change to the fore.
“That’s why the success of innovative energy projects like Hywind are so vital in putting us on a path to a fossil-free Scotland. This technology will enable wind farms to be built in previously inaccessible areas.”
Dr Dixon said offshore wind will play a huge role in decades to come.
He explained: “Both fixed and floating offshore wind farms are a key part of Scotland and the world’s energy future. Developing our huge offshore wind potential on a large scale is crucial for meeting Scotland’s ambitious climate and energy targets and delivering a fossil-free Scotland.
“Further support from both Holyrood and Westminster will be key in creating and driving forward the next generation of clean marine energy.
“The economic opportunities from becoming a world leader in renewable technologies are immense and Scotland’s natural advantages in this area must be capitalised upon.
“It is symbolic that clean energy history is being made in the North East, an area that has been suffering so much from the chaotic decline in the oil industry in recent years.
“The Scottish Government must plan for this inevitable transition away from fossil fuels by supporting workers currently in oil and gas sectors to transfer their skills and experience to a clean energy economy.”
Gina Hanrahan, Acting Head of Policy at WWF Scotland pointed to the drop in cost in windfarm generated energy as proof of its sustainability.
She said: “With around a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind resource in Scotland, it’s great to see the world’s first floating windfarm 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 form renewable sources by 2030.”
Each turbine is a huge 172 metres tall and weigh 11,500 tonnes
They stand in an area known as Buchan Deep, with depths up to 120 metres, generating 30MWs
The pilot park covers some 4 square kilometres and cost an estimated £193million
Each blade is 75 metres long and has a rotor diameter of 85 metres
They are held on the seabed by a suction anchor and use a three line chain mooring system
Energy is carried to shore by long cables
Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said Scotland was the best place to test the windfarm because of its natural positioning.
She 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.
“Our unique offshore supply chain and the skillset it supports put us at the forefront of the deployment of these innovative machines.
“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.”
Announcing their investment in Peterhead, Statoil said it marked an “important step forward” in developing wind technology,
In 2014 the Scottish Government approved the building of an addition four offshore windfarms – Neart na Gaoithe off the Fife coast, Inch Cape Offshore near Angus, along with a further two nearby called Alpha and Bravo.
However RSPB Scotland have been a fierce opponent of offshore windfarms including Hywind, fearing they will impact on breeding seabirds.
Want to learn more? Read: Statoil – Hywind Scotland
Image credits: Statoil, EspenRannevik/Statoil, Friends of the Earth Scotland