MachairWind: Opportunities and Impacts

MachairWind is an offshore windfarm being developed by Scottish Power Renewables (SPR). It will be located off the coast of Argyll, northwest of Islay and west of Colonsay. Development is currently in the early stages and construction is expected to begin later this decade.

A new report by BiGGAR Economics examines economic and social scenarios for communities and supply chain businesses that might be influenced by development of MachairWind. In line with Crown Estate Scotland’s ScotWind objectives, the ambition is to positively impact the local economy, enhance Scottish infrastructure and enable local companies to become a part of the homegrown, clean energy future.

Exploring the Opportunities

The study focusses on mapping and assessing the potential positive and negative impacts of developing, constructing, and operating MachairWind for local communities, local enterprises, economies, and services. The purpose of this very early-stage study is to explore the potential economic and social benefits of the development and understand how these can be enhanced, and how challenges can be mitigated.

Our report provides insights into the concerns and expectations of communities, alongside a quantitative economic model to assess potential impacts. It highlights the opportunities and challenges in establishing MachairWind’s onshore facilities in economically fragile areas, and it uncovers issues of importance to communities as well as local supply chain businesses.

Location of MachairWind

Source: BiGGAR Economics. Made with DataWrapper

Win-Win for Communities and Developer

We found that fostering stronger local supply chains and enabling a dedicated and engaged local workforce would present a win-win situation for both the host communities and MachairWind – providing commercial advantages to the developer and contributing to local economic growth and social well-being. MachairWind’s impact on the labour market has the potential to diversify the economic base and create jobs, and, in some regions, bolster communities which are heavily reliant on specific industries. A strong appetite exists for skills development, and local authorities and public agencies are proactively addressing labour market constraints.

Consultees highlighted the importance of stability, improved infrastructure, and training opportunities for young people, as well as the potential for MachairWind to contribute to net zero goals and alleviate fuel poverty. Community benefits and impacts are central, with consultees emphasising the importance of community development and addressing demographic challenges associated with depopulation.

Issues of Importance to Communities

Source: BiGGAR Economics report to Scottish Power Renewables, April 2024. MachairWind Development – Economic and Social Scenarios: Opportunities and Impacts

A major concern revolves around housing supply, especially in the Highlands and Islands, where finding affordable housing poses challenges for both existing and incoming residents. However, stakeholders are optimistic about the development’s potential to contribute to addressing these issues and positively influence other sectors.

MachairWind’s Influence extends Beyond its Host Communities

While the primary sites associated with the development may be located in specific rural communities, the manufacturing, transportation, and service sectors can be spread across neighbouring areas. This decentralisation can lead to increased economic activity in several parts of rural Scotland and beyond.

Plans for the development remain at a very early stage and technical capabilities will help determine the location of construction and operations and maintenance facilities for MachairWind.  

Effective Collaboration will be Key to Success

Careful planning, investment, and collaboration will help the MachairWind development bring lasting benefits, fostering economic growth, sustainability, and community well-being. To ensure success, effective engagement with local communities is paramount.

More Information

For more information, please see the resources below: