Islay offshore windfarm ‘could almost power Scotland’

ScottishPower CEO Keith Anderson

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The prospect of a major offshore wind farm could offer ‘significant benefits’, according to Argyll and Bute Council’s leader.

Councillor Robin Currie made the comments after it was announced this week ScottishPower had won the rights to develop a windfarm in the seas off Islay.

A trade union has, however, warned success will be judged on the level of local jobs and investment resulting from it.

The proposed MachairWind project follows the first offshore wind leasing by Crown Estate Scotland for a decade. A total of 74 bids were received through the Scotwind leasing round, with 17 successful bidders confirmed for sites round the Scottish coast.

ScottishPower’s two-gigawatt MachairWind project to the west of Islay is said to have the potential to power more than 2.3 million homes – almost every home in Scotland.

ScottishPower already operates five onshore windfarms across Argyll and Bute, with plans for two more.

Scottish Power’s chief executive officer Keith Anderson said: ‘Offshore wind is set to become the backbone of the UK’s energy mix and will do the heavy lifting as we ramp up the production of clean electricity on the journey to net zero.

‘Our Islay project will play an important part in that and make the best use of the region’s fantastic natural resources to help power the UK’s transition from fossil fuels to renewables and a better future, quicker. It will also help deliver investment, support jobs and boost supply chains – opening up immense opportunities for businesses and institutions across the region and the country – who can register their interest on our online portal now.’

George Dean, director of community renewables group Islay Energy Trust Limited, said: ‘The development of a major offshore wind farm to the north-west of Islay opens up the prospect to deliver benefits to the islands of Islay, Jura and Colonsay.

‘With this project, we can seek opportunities to decarbonise our islands.’

There is also optimism at the local authority. Leader of Argyll and Bute Council Robin Currie said: ‘This has the potential to bring significant benefits to Argyll and Bute, as well as more widely across Scotland.

‘It creates opportunities for a substantial number of temporary and permanent jobs across Argyll and Bute, helping our economy recover and grow sustainably.

‘It also has the potential to position Argyll and Bute as a place where new industries such as data centres can access a ready supply of renewable energy. We look forward to working with Scottish Power Renewables as this project moves forward.’

Trade union GMB Scotland, meanwhile, offered a more cautious welcome.

GMB Scotland secretary Louise Gilmour said: ‘After the abject failure of the last decade on offshore wind manufacturing, progress will be judged on the number of jobs and scale of investment this leasing round brings to Scotland.

‘But the list of successful applicants includes firms that have offshored tens of thousands of green manufacturing jobs to the rest of the world in previous projects.

‘This is a massive test of the renewables industry’s environmental and social justice credentials and the last chance saloon for political leaders who have promised a green jobs revolution for years.’