Chapter 5: Onshore Wind and Benefits to Scotland
5.1.1. The Climate Change Plan Update, published in December 2020, stated "The green recovery and transition to net-zero present considerable economic opportunities for Scotland. By capitalising on Scotland's strengths in energy, natural capital, innovation and our skilled workforce and universities, we can set Scotland at the forefront of growing global markets."
5.1.2. The socio-economic benefits of the onshore wind sector in Scotland are widespread, from investment and innovation to skills development and jobs. The latest statistics from the UK Government show that onshore wind in the UK generated £2.4 billion in turnover in 2020 alone.
5.1.3. This chapter explores the potential opportunities afforded to Scotland by onshore wind, including supply chain, skills and tourism.
5.1.4. The Scottish Government expects all onshore wind developments in Scotland to support our national and local supply chains and we are determined to see significant increases in local content, to steadily increase our skilled workforce, to see greater diversity and for our energy sector to continue to boost our local economies.
5.1.5. Onshore wind already provides significant support to local economies across Scotland, through direct and indirect jobs, supporting our hospitality industry and in some cases offering apprenticeship opportunities to areas that would otherwise be overlooked for investment.
5.1.6. There is an opportunity to capitalise on established expertise and experience as onshore wind is deployed at greater volume over the coming decade. We expect that these opportunities, and the economic value attached, will exist predominantly within Scotland, but this expertise will extend across the UK.
5.2. Supply Chain
5.2.1. Scotland already has a well-established energy supply chain and due to the Scottish Government's long-standing support for onshore wind, Scotland boasts an incredibly skilled and globally recognised workforce with thousands of skilled workers in manufacturing, operations and maintenance (O&M), environmental assessment and planning, and project management.
5.2.2. The University of Strathclyde's study, published in October 2022, 'The Economic Impact of Scotland's Renewable Energy Sector – Update'shows that onshore wind developments alone directly support over 2,600 FTE jobs in Scotland. According to the Office of National Statistics, each direct job created, supports 1.24 indirect jobs, increasing the overall impact substantially. The recent Onshore Wind Prospectus suggests that approximately 17,000 jobs and the equivalent of £27.8bn in GVA could be achieved in Scotland if we are able to deploy an additional 12 GW by 2030.
5.2.3. We recognise that, at present, the Scottish manufacturing supply chain for the wind industry is weak. Over the coming years we have a real opportunity to create an established remanufacturing industry based on circular economy principles. This has the potential to add significant investment into Scotland's economy, as well as introduce new skills and support new direct, and indirect, jobs to meet increasing demand. Additionally, a local supply chain of remanufactured components reduces the reliance on the global supply chain and could reduce the lead time of the construction phase of wind energy development.
5.2.4. RenewableUK are currently working to fully understand the supply chain opportunities for Scotland, and the rest of the UK. We expect their report shortly and will use it to inform our approach to maximising supply chain benefits. We expect the report will be considered by the Onshore Wind Strategic Leadership Group and will contribute to discussions around the sector deal.
5.2.5. The rapid expansion of Scotland's onshore wind capacity, and associated manufacturing opportunities, will play a key role in the future. Scotland's Enterprise agencies and Scottish Development International will continue to work with domestic suppliers in other Scottish energy sectors to better understand capability and capacity gaps. The Scottish Government is keen to ensure that companies can target key manufacturing contracts throughout this decade and beyond.
5.2.6. The Scottish Government expects onshore wind developers to engage with domestic manufacturers and ports to ensure that the Scottish supply chain has visibility of a pipeline of contracts. We want developers to seek out opportunities throughout the development of their project; building the competitiveness, capability and capacity of the Scottish supply chain. This will help keep costs down for consumers, as well as creating and growing competitive business, increasing local jobs and boosting our opportunities for exports. Developers should seek to engage Scottish companies early in procurement and open tendering processes and provide support to help them navigate forward.
5.2.7. We expect to see Scottish based suppliers being given a realistic opportunity to compete for manufacturing contracts. Developers, and those at the top of the supply chain, should work collaboratively to establish and develop manufacturing facilities and key infrastructure that can be utilised throughout the construction of multiple projects in Scotland.
5.2.8. The Scottish Government and its Enterprise Agencies will continue to work closely with the sector to identify and progress opportunities for inward investment in the domestic supply chain. This is particularly the case for our Small and Medium- sized Enterprises (SME) base. Our Enterprise Agencies currently put Net Zero and developing green jobs at the heart of their approach to business support and are available to provide product development support along with funding and grants.
5.3.1. Not all onshore wind development needs to take place on new sites. As some of Scotland's first wind farms reach the end of their consented life, we can consider multiple options that either enable the use of modern, more efficient turbines or maintain the current turbines to ensure they continue to generate beyond their anticipated life.
5.3.2. Repowering, and extending the operational life of wind farms, can take different forms, and the coming years are likely to bring advances in engineering, technology and environmental practices that will increase the opportunities to repower at particular sites.
5.3.3. According to a survey conducted by RenewableUK, repowering has garnered significant support in Scotland, with 74% of people supporting the replacement of old turbines with new ones, once they reach the end of their lifespan. Additionally, 67% of people support installing modern, taller turbines in order to generate more power. The survey can be found here.
5.3.4. Repowering to date has included new or upgraded components and technology being installed which can lengthen the operational life of a wind farm, while the layout and general scale of turbines remain unchanged. This is now known as life extension.
5.3.5. However, in their 2021 report, 'The Future of Onshore Wind Decommissioning in Scotland', Zero Waste Scotland states that life extension is a "finite activity that relies on the decommissioning and refurbishing of existing components". The associated operations and maintenance costs required to keep existing turbines operational, and the availability of parts to service older turbines mean that we cannot rely on life extension to ensure our current fleet remains operational.
5.3.6. Other repowering options include dismantling existing turbines and installing new ones, potentially larger in scale, while re-using existing infrastructure (e.g., access roads, connection to a local electricity network). In these cases, the proposal is for a new wind farm, and can often extend the footprint of the existing wind farm into previously undeveloped areas.
5.3.7. Repowering using taller, more powerful turbines, requires significantly fewer turbines to generate more power. For example, SSE Renewables' Tangy Wind Farm will replace its existing 22 turbine, 18.7 MW generating site with only 16 turbines, generating up to 80 MW. According to RenewableUK's report Onshore Wind: The UK's Next Generation, across the UK, 19 wind farm developments have been repowered, increasing generating capacity by 160% and using only two-thirds the number of turbines.
5.3.8. Other major advantages of repowering existing schemes include the opportunity for co-location with other renewables technologies, such as solar PV and battery storage, maximising land use through ecosystem enhancement and restoration (e.g., forestry/peatland), re-using existing infrastructure and increasing economic benefits to the local community.
5.3.9. Whilst our planning system is supportive of repowering, development proposals will continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure the ongoing suitability of the site for further wind farm development, taking account of relevant local and national planning policies.
5.4. Circular Economy
5.4.1. The Scottish Government is committed to building a circular economy and recognises it as a vital part of our journey to net zero. Increasing use of renewable technologies is resulting in a greater demand for the associated manufacturing materials.
5.4.2. Adopting a circular approach keeps materials in use for longer, safeguards against potential future resource shortages, and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions involved in manufacturing and transportation. It further avoids landfill costs for businesses and reduces waste going to landfill, reducing carbon impacts through the recycling of materials and displacing virgin materials that require energy intensive processes.
5.4.3. The Scottish Government fully supports, and encourages, the use of recycled and refurbished turbines, recognising the enormous potential to strengthen the Scottish supply chain, reduce waste, utilise more of our local skills and capabilities and improve costs for the onshore wind sector.
5.4.4. Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) is working to improve the circularity of the energy sector and provide support and advice to businesses looking to develop more circular business models, including the renewable industry. Their 2021 report 'The Future of Onshore Wind Decommissioning in Scotland' estimates that as many as 5,600 turbines could be decommissioned between now and 2050 and presented numerous recommendations to both the industry and Government which would support a thriving circular economy in Scotland. Initial calculations have also identified an approximate potential emission saving of 35% from the manufacturing of wind turbines using recycled content compared to virgin materials.
5.4.5. At present, most component parts of onshore wind turbines are fully recyclable, except blades, which are made from composite resins and fibres that are difficult to recycle at present. However, Scotland is leading the way in in terms in circular economy innovation. Scottish company ReBlade specialise in turbine blade and nacelle decommissioning, maximising blade second-life potential and blade derived products, such as furniture. More information on the work of ReBlade can be found in Annex 2.
5.4.6. Another Scottish company making ground-breaking strides in the supply chain is Renewable Parts. They are the first SME in the wind industry to receive funding from the Circular Economy Investment Fund, and focus its efforts on reducing waste associated with wind turbines by creating a refurbishment programme that aims to decrease the carbon footprint of recycled parts by up to 80%. More information on the work Renewable Parts do can be found in Annex 2.
5.4.7. The Scottish Government encourages the onshore wind industry, among others, to consider the refurbishment and recycling of their wind turbines and has plans to introduce a Circular Economy Bill to advance Scotland's ambitions for the circular economy through measures which will encourage reuse of products and reduce waste.
5.4.8. The proposed Onshore Wind Strategic Leadership Group and upcoming Onshore Wind Sector Deal will provide an excellent platform for both the wind industry and Scottish Government to cement their commitment to a circular economy and establish a strong ambition from the sector to support the Scottish circular economy supply chain.
5.5.1. In March 2022, we published the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, detailing our vision for the transition to a fairer, greener wellbeing economy for the coming decade. The document sets out that investment will be prioritised in entrepreneurialism, skills, retraining and the development of new markets and opportunities, particularly in the just transition to net zero.
5.5.2. A 'Skilled Workforce' is one of the key programmes targeted by the strategy. Ensuring that Scotland has the skills needed to drive economic transformation by embedding access to entrepreneurial learning in schools and colleges focusing on the transition to net zero, the digital revolution, and lifelong training. The Scottish Government will make sure employers have the supply of skills they need by developing a National Digital Academy. The strategy will also help ensure new and current businesses are supported in investing in innovative ideas that could lead to new industries and quality jobs across the country.
5.5.3. As highlighted earlier in this document, Scotland boasts some of the most skilled energy workforce in the world. As well as supporting a transition of skills from the oil and gas industry into the renewable energy industry, the Scottish Government is committed to an economic recovery from COVID-19 that is both green and fair – where we capture the opportunities of our transition to net-zero including in green jobs, innovation and competitiveness. The need for a skilled workforce is more important than ever to enable us to meet these unprecedented challenges. We must make sure that new jobs are good jobs – underpinned by Fair Work principles, with high workplace standards and paying fair wages.
5.5.4. A history of oil and gas expertise in Scotland, and our existing supply chains, means that Scotland is comparatively very well placed to build on these existing skills, and provide skilled professionals to meet the increasing demands of the onshore wind sector as we transition to net zero. The Just Transition Commission's A national mission for a fairer, greener Scotland sets out, "we need to be considering how to help and support people currently working in the [oil and gas] sector to adapt to a new future and enable them to put the skills they have developed in oil and gas towards driving our net-zero transition." Opportunities for skilled jobs will be available throughout the lifecycle of developments, from planning through to development, through operations and maintenance (O&M) to decommissioning and recycling.
5.5.5. Our 2022 Programme for Government set out the key elements of a green recovery, and a stronger, more resilient Scotland. The document outlines the key priorities of the Scottish Government, including a commitment to improve the content and extend the scope of our Green Jobs Workforce Academy and develop a refreshed Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan by the end of 2023.
5.5.6. Over the period 2017 to 2020 the Scottish Government has already provided grant funding of over £320,000 to the Energy Skills Partnership to support their Wind Turbine Technician training courses. Over 600 technicians and 100 apprentices have received this training since its inception, adding to our skilled and experienced workforce and building the workforce of the future.
5.5.7. We have also created a £62 million Energy Transition Fund targeted at projects, identified by the sector and regional partners, which will accelerate energy transition and respond to the dual challenges of commodity downturn and COVID. Taking a place-based approach, we are working to ensure this investment supports and creates local jobs and benefits wider supply chains across Scotland.
5.5.8. As such, grants within the Energy Transition fund will apply the Fair Work First criteria, which asks employers to commit to:
- appropriate channels for effective voice, such as trade union recognition
- action to tackle the gender pay gap and create more diverse and inclusive workplaces
- payment of the real Living Wage
- no in-appropriate use of zero hours contracts, and
- investment in workforce development.
5.5.9. Our Just Transition Plan makes clear the Scottish Government's commitment to developing our economy in a way that brings Scotland's citizens with us, and we believe that onshore wind will play a significant role in that journey.
5.6.1. Tourism has an undeniable role in delivering Scotland's wider economic strategy and just transition, especially as we recover from COVID-19. Tourism is capable of sustaining many of Scotland's local economies; creating jobs, adding vibrancy and enhancing our places, and helping to improve our health and wellbeing.
5.6.2. The Scotland Outlook 2030, published in March 2020, sets out a bold new approach that will see tourism act positively in the common interest of Scotland's communities, businesses and visitors. It recognises that the role of tourism has changed as a result of our climate crisis, advances in technology, EU exit and changes in consumer behaviour which is reflected in the demands of today's traveller.
5.6.3. The tourism sector represents a significant consumer of energy, and the Scotland Outlook 2030 recognises and acknowledges the need to reduce the sector's environmental impact and its inevitable contribution to net zero targets.
5.6.4. VisitScotland research does however indicate that visitors aspire to be more responsible, both in terms of their personal and environmental impact. VisitScotland's Trends 2020 Paper identified that travellers are now seeking to consciously off-set the carbon impact of their travel. The use of sustainable energy by local businesses may therefore appeal to this type of traveller and promote Scotland as an environmentally friendly and climate conscious country to visit.
5.6.5. The Scottish Government is aware that some communities in Scotland are concerned that the deployment of onshore wind can have a negative effect on tourism. Current evidence suggests that whilst there may be discrete impacts in some cases, this is not the general rule.
5.6.6. As was noted in the section covering shared land use, Scotland's available land has a variety of demands that we need to balance if we are to meet our net zero targets. We consider the effect that onshore wind farms can have on local and national tourism as a significant opportunity to cultivate a 'people and place' approach and provide economic opportunities in areas that may otherwise be overlooked. The Scottish Government is keen to see more developments in Scotland with similar recreational or community-based provisions.
5.6.7. There are already many examples of renewable energy schemes boosting tourism across Scotland, be it Whitelee Wind Farm on the outskirts of Glasgow, providing additional outdoor recreational activities on over 130km of tracks; or the Soirbheas Community Group who reinvest revenue from renewable energy schemes into a range of projects to benefit their communities.
5.6.8. The Hagshaw Energy Cluster have worked to produce a Development Framework for the Hagshaw Cluster area, working in partnership with landowners, communities, local businesses and the main development partners of NatureScot, East Ayrshire Council, South Lanarkshire Council, 3R Energy, ScottishPower Renewables, Energiekontor, Octopus Renewables, BayWa.re, LUC and Ventient Energy. This Development Framework identifies opportunities to enhance and invest in the local environment, communities and place and more details are available at Annex 3.
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