European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), also known as Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm and “famous” for being the offshore wind project the current U.S. President Donald Trump fought against, is estimated to bring the Aberdeenshire area more than GBP 100 million (around EUR 110 million) over its operational lifetime.
Namely, according to a new socio-economic research conducted by Oxford Brookes University, the offshore wind project’s long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) activity will have greater economic benefits for the local area than initially expected.
The O&M spending is likely to lead to the creation of between 40 and 50 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs each year, totalling between 800 to 1,000 jobs, which is significantly more than the 660 new FTE jobs predicted during the project’s early development.
Locally based contracts with suppliers and onward spending within the local community under the Unlock our Future Fund are estimated to generate well over GBP 5 million each year for the Aberdeen and wider Aberdeenshire economy over a 20-year period within the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm’s operating life.
“The findings of the Aberdeen Technical Report have informed a Guidance Report on best practice for assessing the socio-economic implications and opportunities arising from the growth of the offshore wind energy industry. The Guidance Report provides a staged plan to help developers engage locally, including developing a community benefits fund”, Vattenfall said in a press release from 16 October.
Offshore Construction in the Back Seat
The 93.2 MW offshore wind farm in Aberdeen Bay, the first one to use MHI Vestas 8.8 MW wind turbines, was inaugurated in September 2018.
While the socio-economic research found that that the value of the planning and development, onshore construction, and O&M phases to the local and Scotland-wide economies was underestimated, it also found that the value of the offshore construction stage to these areas was overestimated, Vattenfall reports.
“Survey work on the sub-station employees indicated around 60% of the onshore construction workforce came from the Aberdeenshire area, and most of the remaining 40% from the rest of Scotland. In contrast, due to the small nature of the project, the short construction period, and the availability of workers with the required skills, a large percentage of the offshore construction team came from outside the local area”.
According to the study’s estimates, during the offshore construction, among a peak workforce of 500 people there were only 10 Scots.
At the time, suppliers with specialist expertise and equipment required for EOWDC’s offshore construction were difficult to source within the UK.
Vattenfall said that it had been working to help address the skills and supplier gap in the UK since 2018, building on the experience gained through constructing the EOWDC.
The developer said it organised more than 60 supply chain meetings across the country since 2018, reaching over 600 local and UK companies and stakeholders, with education and apprenticeship programmes set up in Kent and Norfolk.
“There’s a tendency to assume that the opportunities linked to wind farms begin and end with construction. But as this study shows, the main advantages for the community and local economy come from the long-term operations and maintenance phases, which generate significant amounts of spending and jobs”, said Alexandra Richards, Operations and Maintenance Manager, Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm.
“With the Prime Minister having just announced ambitious plans for a huge increase in the UK’s offshore wind capacity, there’s a massive opportunity to build up the supply chain in this country. It’s very likely that much larger offshore wind farms, like Vattenfall’s planned Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas projects, will be worth billions of pounds to the economy over their lifespan, with multiple benefits for communities close by”.