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Boom Interrupted: Scotland Falls Short of Targets for Offshore Wind

Kim Hansen/Wikimedia Commons

Scotland may have successfully turned serial golf course developer Donald Trump into a loser [1], defeating him in court on an offshore wind project he opposed. But the country’s broader plan to install 950 offshore turbines by the end of this year is far behind schedule and running low on financial support.

The swooshing blades out at sea were a pivotal part of the nationalist-led Scottish government’s goal to get 100% of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020,” Bloomberg reports. But “despite four offshore wind projects getting the go-ahead this week, more targets have been missed than met and UK subsidies have been cut.

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In 2011, the Scottish National Party government predicted that offshore wind would produce up to 28,377 jobs and £7.1 billion in economic activity by 2020. “Less than a tenth of those jobs have materialized so far, with just about 500 people working in Scottish offshore wind,” Bloomberg notes.

“People overestimated the likely scale of deployment,” acknowledged Scottish Renewables CEO Niall Stuart. “Clearly, it’s nothing like the most optimistic scenario.”

The country has run into similar roadblocks with its attempt to produce 25% of Europe’s tidal power and 10% of its wave-generated electricity. That effort “became more of a research and development activity than industrial strategy,” Bloomberg recounts, as “two of the most promising wave converter companies went bust.”

The news agency notes that offshore wind is a growth industry worldwide, and Scottish interest in the technology is still strong. “With the collapse of North Sea oil dragging the Scottish economy toward recession, the push to diversify into renewable energy has heightened resonance, not least politically.” And former first minister Alex Salmond, whose government set the country’s original renewable energy target, sees a silver lining in delaying Scotland’s offshore wind boom while technology continues to improve.

“We need genuine offshore technology if it’s to be as competitive as onshore wind is now,” he stated.