MEMBER NEWS: £100 million set to blow into Aberdeen in the next 20 years

October 16, 2020
MEMBER NEWS: £100 million set to blow into Aberdeen in the next 20 years

Local jobs, contracts and the Unlock our Future Fund connected to Vattenfall’s Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm are estimated to generate well over £5 million each year for the Aberdeen and wider Aberdeenshire economy over a 20-year period within its operating life.

According to new socio-economic research carried out by Oxford Brookes University, spending linked to the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the wind farm is likely to lead to the creation of between 40 and 50 Full Time Equivalent jobs each year, through locally based contracts with suppliers and onward spending within the local community.

This total of 800-1000 jobs is considerably higher than the 660 new FTE jobs which were predicted during the project’s early development, highlighting greater than expected benefits for the local area resulting from long-term operation and maintenance activity.

The research assessed the socio-economic impacts of offshore wind farms, using the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm (also known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre) as the main case study. The study is part of a much larger £2.75 million research programme hosted at the EOWDC which also examines bird and marine life around offshore installations. It is thought to be the largest research programme of its kind in the world.

A series of industry firsts have been deployed at Aberdeen including the most powerful offshore turbines in the world at the time of the wind farm’s construction, with one rotation of the turbine blades generating enough electricity to power an average UK household for twenty four hours.

The findings of the Aberdeen Technical Report have informed a Guidance Report on best practice for assessing the socio-economic implications and opportunities arising from the growth of the offshore wind energy industry. The Guidance Report provides a staged plan to help developers engage locally, including developing a community benefits fund.

The study found that Aberdeen demonstrated how important it is for developers to engage with the local community right the way through the project phases by providing regular updates, eliciting feedback, and raising awareness about the offshore wind industry.

Likewise, the study found that the community benefit fund associated with the wind farm ‘represented a very good example of a community benefits initiative for UK offshore wind farms’.

In its first two rounds of funding, the Unlock our Future Fund has awarded over £200,000 to projects that enable fossil fuel-free initiatives in local communities. Awards include a contribution to the development of an interactive environmental education facility, and grants for low carbon heating initiatives such as air source heat pumps for community buildings in Newburgh. Funding was also awarded to purchase an electric vehicle for a home for adults with special needs.

However, while the research found that that the planning and development, onshore construction, and O&M phases underestimated the value to the local and Scotland-wide economies, it also found that the value of the offshore construction stage to these areas was overestimated.

Survey work on the sub-station employees indicated around 60% of the onshore construction workforce came from the Aberdeenshire area, and most of the remaining 40% from the rest of Scotland. In contrast, due to the small nature of the project, the short construction period, and the availability of workers with the required skills, a large percentage of the offshore construction team came from outside the local area.

Based on the data available, the offshore construction workforce is believed to have consisted of around 10 Scots among a peak workforce of 500 people8. The expertise and equipment required for offshore construction were also so specialist that suppliers for the offshore construction phase were difficult to source within the UK at the time.

Building on the experience gained constructing the EOWDC, Vattenfall has been working to help address the skills and supplier gap: more than 60 supply chain meetings have taken place across the country since 2018, reaching over 600 local and UK companies and stakeholders. Education and apprenticeship programmes in Kent and Norfolk have also been set up. The intention is to help establish local and national supply chains so UK companies can contribute to future offshore projects as well as opportunities in Aberdeen.

Alexandra Richards, Operations and Maintenance Manager, Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm, commented:

“Despite having just 11 turbines, albeit some of the most powerful in operation in the world today, Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm is already proving its worth to the local area. We couldn’t be prouder of what our wind farm means for Aberdeenshire, and through the Unlock our Future Fund, the project will leave a legacy even after it has reached the end of its lifespan.

“There’s a tendency to assume that the opportunities linked to wind farms begin and end with construction. But as this study shows, the main advantages for the community and local economy come from the long-term operations and maintenance phases, which generate significant amounts of spending and jobs. 

“With the Prime Minister having just announced ambitious plans for a huge increase in the UK’s offshore wind capacity, there’s a massive opportunity to build up the supply chain in this country. It’s very likely that much larger offshore wind farms, like Vattenfall’s planned Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas projects, will be worth billions of pounds to the economy over their lifespan, with multiple benefits for communities close by.”

Professor John Glasson, research lead for the Oxford Brookes University team, added:

“The impacts of offshore wind farms on the human environment, and especially on local and regional communities adjacent to such projects, is an under-researched area. Such communities are often suffering greatly from the decline in traditional industries, such as shipbuilding, fishing and tourism.

“Human environmental impacts include a wide range of social and economic issues. However, a lack of knowledge on the actual impacts of such projects can greatly hamper case management.

“There is a need for adequate planning and assessment tools for the key stakeholders – developers, consultancies, local, regional and national governments, development agencies and the general public— who are the audience for this Guidance Report. The aim is to aid the enhancement of local benefits and facilitate a positive developer-community relationship over a project’s lifecycle.”

Jean Morrison, chair of Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), said:

“This research shows that, as a pioneering project, the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm has created significant economic and employment opportunities for the north east of Scotland. The experience and knowledge built through the development of the EOWDC has also identified where there are skills gaps regionally and is allowing us to create a stronger local supply chain. Through our membership, we are seeing many businesses diversifying operations and I would expect these specialist skills to be utilised for future offshore wind projects.”

Get in touch

The team at AREG is committed to ensuring that businesses in Aberdeen City and Shire capitalise on opportunities in renewable energy and that our members achieve success in this rapidly growing market. Please contact us with your news, views, concerns and successes so that we are well placed to deliver on your behalf.

AREG has played an important role in the growth of Scotland’s renewable energy sector, engaging the supply chain and developing the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre. However, we are only at the very beginning of the transition that AREG was established to both lead and support so there are still opportunities for companies to get into the constantly evolving renewables supply chain. We look forward to continuing our work together as renewables builds on its place as Scotland’s main source of power, and as we seek to deliver real change in the crucial areas of heat and transport.

Scottish Renewables

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce has worked closely with AREG since its formation. The recent progress in the developments of offshore wind projects by Equinor and Vattenfall are as a result of the work of the group over many years. The north-east is known as the oil and gas capital of Europe. At the Chamber, we believe the region must evolve its position to being recognised as the energy capital. Whilst hydrocarbons will continue to be essential in driving our economy for years to come, the generation of renewable resources will play an increasingly important role in providing cost-effective power, innovative development and economic growth.

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce

The enthusiasm and dedication of the early group that would become AREG was fundamental in us choosing to launch All-Energy in Aberdeen. The first tiny show was held in 2001, and AREG’s Chairman at the time, Jeremy Cresswell, played such an active role that I often describe him in terms such as All-Energy’s ‘midwife’. All-Energy is now the UK’s largest renewable and low carbon energy exhibition and conference in terms of number of attendees, space booked, and number of exhibiting companies. As AREG became firmly established, their presence and support for the event grew spectacularly over the years. We thank them most sincerely for their invaluable input.

All-Energy

Vattenfall has forged a strong working relationship with AREG through the development of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre. AREG has worked tirelessly on behalf of the North East and it can take enormous credit for the growth of sustainable energy in the region and the path it has cleared for the region to capture further investment.

Vattenfall

Aberdeen City and Shire is emerging as a key location for renewables by successfully transferring its world-class oil and gas expertise into the sector and AREG has done much to advance this through a broad range of initiatives. It has acted as a catalyst in driving further investment in the local economy by engaging with companies, Government, public bodies and existing projects and we have been pleased to support their efforts. Scottish Enterprise will continue to engage with AREG as we increase Scotland’s use of renewable energy.

Scottish Enterprise