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Another milestone for green energy, but Scotland needs more manufacturers

The approval today of a substantial wind farm in the North Sea represents another milestone in green energy, though it also adds to questions about Scotland’s failure to develop an indigenous renewables manufacturing industry.

Mainstream Renewable Power, based in Ireland, was granted consent by the Scottish Government to build and operate a 450 megawatt offshore wind farm Neart na Gaoithe (“NnG”)  the Outer Forth Estuary.

This will be the first offshore wind farm of this scale constructed and operated in Scottish waters to be directly connected to the Scottish electricity system.

Its 75 turbines over 80 square kilometres will have the capacity to deliver enough power for 325,000 homes, more homes than in a city the size of Edinburgh, and equal to 3.7% of Scotland’s total electricity demand. The wind farm will begin generating electricity by 2018.

NnG is costing £1.5 billion and will be the first offshore wind farm in the UK to be built using project finance raised by a private company.

But in spite of Scotland having the natural resources to be the base of a renewables industrry questions are being asked about why it has yet to produce a global manufacturer of its own in the sector. Most of the companies involved in developing projects are from Scandinavia, Spain, Japan, Germany or, in this case, Ireland.

So far, Scotland has produced smaller scale companies, some engaged in pioneering work, including the more unproven wave and tidal energy sectors.

Until bigger companies emerge, Scotland’s nascent renewables manufacturing sector will be largely dependent on foreign investors such as Doosan and Mitsubishi. A number of projects are at the early stage, including Portuguese company Gamesa’s plan to build a turbine factory in Leith which is yet to get off the ground.

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