Circular economy around offshore wind ‘could create 20,000 Scottish jobs’

As offshore wind helps propel Scotland towards net zero, a new report suggests a circular economy approach around the sector could further reduce carbon emissions by 34% and create an additional 20,000 jobs across the UK – an opportunity Scotland could capitalize on.

The ‘End of Life Materials Mapping for Offshore Wind in Scotland’ report, produced by Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, identified the large amount of materials needed to grow the Scottish offshore wind market .

The report also highlights how these materials could be refurbished, remanufactured and recycled from the dismantling of wind turbines to reduce waste and generate economic opportunity.

The report examines how the offshore wind sector could grow by 2050. It outlines the huge supply chain opportunity created by the expected volume growth across Scotland following the Scottish Government’s target to increase offshore wind capacity to 11 GW in Scotland. by 2030, the ScotWind lease cycle and the Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas (INTOG) lease process. If all the proposed projects in the pipeline are successful, Scotland’s offshore wind capacity would reach almost 40 GW by 2033.

Image credit: EEEGR

Andrew Macdonald, Director of Offshore Wind Development and Operations at ORE Catapult, said: “Collaboration between offshore wind and other sectors will be crucial to accelerating circular economy technologies and supply chains. It’s an exciting prospect moving forward with industry partners, such as Zero Waste Scotland, and showing how wind power, the workhorse of the clean energy revolution, will cross its next steps towards circularity.

Early estimates foresee the creation of up to 20,000 jobs by 2030 with the development of a full circular economy supply chain in the UK including a wide variety of recycling processes, and identify an economy carbon reduction by 34% if new turbines are made from recycled content.

Iain Gulland, Managing Director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Zero Waste Scotland is delighted to partner with Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to release this exciting report. Scotland’s renewable energy sector is already playing a major role in decarbonising the Scottish economy and wind turbines are an important part of our green energy story.

“With decommissioning, they can also play a vital role in future economic growth by supporting new jobs and skills. With up to 90% of a turbine potentially recyclable or reusable, this report makes a compelling case for a planned circular approach to the deployment and decommissioning of offshore infrastructure.

“This is yet another example of how such an approach, where we think beyond the end-of-life of products and materials, allows us not only to realize significant carbon savings, but also to energize our economy through the creation of substantial jobs and the development of new skills.”

Wind Turbine Recycling - Online 2

Image credit: EEEGR

It is estimated that the dismantling of offshore wind in Scotland could generate 1.5 to 2.4 million tonnes of material by 2050, and that up to 492 wind turbines will be decommissioned in Scotland, increasing by 1,718 by 2065. However, it has also been calculated that growth in offshore wind will require 14.7 million tonnes of steel, 8.36 million tonnes of concrete and 1.54 million tonnes of ductile iron by 2050. Other consumables needed include fiberglass and carbon fiber, neodymium and copper.

The report found that investing in a circular economy is key to properly recycling wind turbines domestically and meeting the 60% UK content target for future offshore wind developments. The report also highlights that sustainability within the sector will require a variety of refurbishment and reprocessing solutions for each wind turbine component, as well as recycling work.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals to develop Scotland’s circular economy, an exercise which runs until August 22, 2022.

In line with outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ambition to make the UK ‘the Saudi Arabia of the wind’, The Crown Estate last week identified five areas in the Celtic Sea where floating offshore wind installations could be built. The areas were selected following technical analysis and discussions between the Crown Estate and the UK and Welsh governments. The facilities could supply around 4 GW of floating offshore wind power by 2035.

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