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A North Sea Auction Produces Big Plans for Scottish Wind Farms

Ms. Kingham said there was now “a real opportunity” for Scotland to become a center for renewable energy, including hydrogen, electric vehicle charging and other solutions to climate change.

The Scottish government insisted that winning bidders spend substantial sums with local businesses. Overall, the 17 offshore wind projects awarded are likely to bring in tens of billions of pounds in investment, bolstering the British and Scottish economies.

Thomas Brostrom, senior vice president for renewables at Shell, said that the company had promised that 40 percent of its investment would go to Scottish firms and that his company, like BP, was considering making Aberdeen into a center for wind power. Shell and Iberdrola’s subsidiary, ScottishPower, won two large tracts off northeast Scotland with a depth of as much as 330 feet of water.

Alvaro Martinez Palacio, managing director for offshore wind at Iberdrola, which won the largest amount of acreage, partly in partnership with Shell, estimated that the capital costs for the company’s awarded wind farms would be £10 billion to £20 billion.

The Scottish projects are also likely to be test sites for floating wind turbines, which are anchored to the seabed rather than attached. Floating turbines can be placed in deep water, which describes much of the area covered by the Scottish leases, as well as places like the California coast.

So far, though, floating turbines are still too costly for wide commercial deployment. Shell’s two wind farms, which amount to about 20 percent of the capacity awarded, would need to be on floating structures, which are still in the experimental stage.

A key issue is where the power will go. Overall, the potential capacity that has been awarded is likely far too much for the Scottish system. Southbound cables will be needed to take power to major population and industrial centers in England. Eventually, the Scottish power may also be used to generate hydrogen, a clean-burning gas, and the electricity could be sent across the North Sea to Norway or Germany, executives say.

Holger Grubel, head of portfolio development at EnBW, BP’s partner, said building infrastructure for sending power south and finding other ways to make use of it were “a crucial element in being successful in actually delivering the wind farms on time.”

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