Energy generation across the Highlands is anticipating a significant boost in the coming years with the proposed developments around Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport (ICFGF).

As part of its original bid for freeport status, ICFGF outlined its aims to build a world-leading floating offshore wind manufacturing sector alongside the development of green hydrogen.

ICFGF has established the Powerhouse innovation hub and intends to attract inward investment and maximise local and national benefits through the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Once operational, ICFGF will offer a tax and customs incentives package to support these intentions and to stimulate investment and growth.

Offshore opportunities

The east coast of Scotland is home to many offshore wind farm developments, with ports in ICFGF already providing support. In addition, ScotWind aims to add 30GW of energy generation together with 13 projects from the recent Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas (INTOG) leasing round aimed at the electrification of oil and gas infrastructure.

Delivering these projects will require a huge amount of new infrastructure; particularly port facilities, vessels, installation equipment, turbine base design and manufacture, and facilities to support operations and maintenance. The tax incentives offered by ICFGF will help businesses deliver the required investment.

The tax benefits for investment in manufacturing facilities and infrastructure, mean that companies supporting the offshore wind sector should look at how to engage with ICFGF, with a view to investing in the Highland region.

While the UK has not been able to build a wind turbine manufacturing sector, ICFGF's focus on floating offshore wind offers the potential to develop an industry specialisation in floating wind turbine base design and manufacture. Scotland's existing expertise in deep water offshore installations is an advantage and ICFGF has the means to create a cluster effect in developing this specialisation. The supply chain could therefore benefit from early preparation by revising contracting models, analysing headcount, and assessing existing and new customer relationships.

Resourcing is likely to be limited, so energy generators operating in the offshore wind space should engage early with existing suppliers and sourcing new suppliers, to ensure they can meet demands . This is especially so in floating offshore wind where the design of turbines and turbine bases require more integration than fixed installations.

Hydrogen in the Highlands

Green hydrogen production is anticipated to be a key demand on electricity produced offshore. The Cromarty Hydrogen Project – to be located in ICFGF – is one such development proposed. It forms part of the Scottish Government's Hydrogen Action Plan which aims to achieve Net Zero by 2045. The intention is to develop production hubs to supply hydrogen, initially to meet existing industrial demand, and subsequently, meet demands from the likes of distilleries and transport applications.

With hydrogen generation still at the planning stages, there is scope for generators, customers and support services to collaborate to develop a state-of-the-art hub. The close proximity of ICFGF to a vast offshore wind resource, puts it in an optimal position for capitalising on future demand for hydrogen.

Generational development

Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport stands at the heart of the Highlands' efforts to benefit from the energy transition. The renewable energy generation projects supported by the freeport have the potential to position the region as a key hub for Scotland, as well as creating generational advantages for its residents and businesses .