The opportunity presented by offshore wind energy generation will only be realised if innovation is embedded at the heart of the industry. The key industry objective of minimising costs and risks to overcome technical obstacles and maximise the returns from investment and development, requires innovation to play a central role in the development of support solutions for the industry. This encompasses not only technical innovation and the development of products, but also innovation in functions, logistics, business models and processes.

R&D funding calls

Scottish Enterprise & Highlands and Islands Enterprise are working together of a series of R&D funding calls that will offer funding support for project ideas that have the potential to reduce the cost of producing energy from offshore wind. 

Further information on the calls is available here.

Test facilities

With the government, the public sector and industry working in partnership, test facilities and demonstration sites are being made available to help develop new offshore wind technologies, e.g. the Talisman Beatrice Deepwater Offshore Wind Demonstrator Project which became operational in 2007. Sites such as this are particularly useful for testing novel foundation designs and advances in turbine technology such as direct drive generators and new blade designs.

SSE Renewables were, in 2012, been granted planning permissions to develop an onshore test site at Hunterston.  The intention is to create a site which could test up to three prototypes for the next generation of offshore wind turbines.  Indications from turbine manufacturers show that there is strong demand for more of these facilities to be developed in the UK and work is underway to consider how to progress this opportunity.

Other demonstration sites are currently under development, with two planned in Scottish waters in the near future:

  • Methil – Japanese company Samsung are working with Scottish Enterprise on plans for the development of their 7MW turbine, to be tested at Methil.  If successful and serial production is taken forward, the area could see up to 500 jobs created.
  • European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre at Aberdeen Bay - plans were submitted to Marine Scotland in August 2011 for a centre which would allow offshore wind farm developers and associated supply chain companies to test new designs, prove existing products and receive independent validation and accreditation before commercial deployment.

The Scottish Energy Laboratory (SEL) has been set up to strengthen collaboration across Scotland’s key test and demonstration facilities which underpin Scotland’s leading position in low carbon energy development. 

It provides a single point of entry to Scotland’s:

  • Key R&D and demonstration facilities
  • Technology development and commercialisation support
  • World class supply chain.

Academic base

Our thriving academic base is ensuring a steady stream of highly qualified, highly skilled employees are ready for the new jobs being created.

The University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Energy Systems conducts world-class research into the systems which control the conversion, transmission and utilisation of a number of forms of energy, while Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology leads the field in research into technologies applicable to sustainable economic growth in island and maritime environments.

Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University is recognised as a centre of expertise in renewable energy and The Centre for Economic Renewable Power Delivery at the University of Strathclyde undertakes research, development and promotional activities in all facets of renewable energy.

The International Technology and Renewable Energy Zone (ITREZ) is a global R&D hub based in Glasgow, bringing business and academia together to work collaboratively on the development of the offshore renewables sector. At the core of ITREZ will be the University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC) and Scottish Enterprise’s Industry Engagement Building.

Smart, indigenous companies are springing up, assisted by funding from government to help commercialise research and development activities from these, and other, academic institutions.

Read more about our centres of excellence on the Scottish Development International website.

Offshore Wind Accelerator

The Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) is a collaborative R&D programme between the Carbon Trust, DONG Energy, Mainstream Renewable Power, RWE Innogy, ScottishPower Renewables, SSE Renewables, Statkraft, E.ON and Statoil that aims to reduce the cost of offshore wind by 10%.

The focus is on improving the economics of offshore wind sites in UK waters over the decade with technologies that can be deployed in Round 2 extensions, Round 3 and Scottish Territorial Waters projects. The Offshore Wind Accelerator currently covers four research areas:

  • offshore foundations
  • wake effects
  • access, logistics and transportation
  • electrical systems