Another stimulating conference from Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Renewables.

There’s still a lot to do to deliver projects, but there were confident messages from speakers. Scotland is very well positioned, in terms of expertise, political leadership and the coordinated approach to supply chain. The scale of investment made already is a surprise, compared to 2 years ago – and the conference opened with the announcement of investment of up to £100 million by Samsung, basing its first European offshore wind project at Methil in Fife, and signing a deal with East Kilbride based David Brown Gear Systems.

The objective is scalability, starting with innovation, then standardisation. Cost reduction is key, through new technology; more efficient and effective and systematic approaches; and building coalitions of industries. A speaker from REPower put it in context – a production line turning out 1 turbine every 3 days.

There is a need to learn by doing, but more near to shore and at shore test sites are required.

It was pointed out that consent is a major event, in contrast to oil and gas projects. Applications for 18GW are expected in 2012-13. Marine Scotland’s target of deciding applications within 9 months was described as challenging. They are seen as more constructive than the English regulators. There needs to be realism and proportionality.

Compliance with the Habitats Directive is expected to be an issue, but as a speaker pointed out, there can be discord between the policy aims of managing climate change and biodiversity. There was speculation that fish will get more attention. Cumulative impact is expected to be a major issue.

Clearly there will be lots happening in this sector in the next few years.

Neil Collar