By selecting the right innovations and incentivizing investment,
Scotland’s Green Freeports could become incubators for new
technologies, helping accelerate the economy and place both
Scotland, and the UK as a whole, at the forefront of the energy and
digital futures worldwide.
Freeports may have previously been seen to merely be a customs
mechanism to boost trade, with some even being criticized for their
role in increased organized crime rates in areas in which Freeport
status has been granted. When implemented correctly though, and
with the added ‘green’ factor as now required in Scotland,
these sites have the potential to become innovation hubs, with
funding powers and flexible manufacturing facilities supported by
research, industry investment and government policy; ultimately
helping Scotland become a net zero world leader.
It is estimated that granting Green Freeport status to Aberdeen
and Peterhead would create 32,000 jobs, and provide an economic
boost worth £8.5 billion over the next decade, via a number
of levers and tax incentives designed to attract inward investment
and support expansion of existing businesses to invest, innovate
and develop the skills needed to deliver a wide range of pioneering
new green projects.
With it recently being reported that a final decision has been
made on the North East Scotland Green Freeport bid, I’ve taken
a look at five industries that could have huge potential in an
Aberdeenshire and Peterhead Green Freeport.
Floating Offshore Wind
The UK currently produces just over 10 GW of energy from
offshore wind farms; a figure that is planned to increase by an
additional 40 GW by 2030. The ports of Aberdeenshire and Peterhead
are well positioned to support the manufacturing and maintenance of
new and existing offshore wind farms, thanks to their location and
the abundance of expertise in offshore facilities, from those in
the oil and gas sector.
There may still be much to learn and innovate in the offshore
wind market – such as how best to move from fixed-base
platforms in shallow water to floating platforms further offshore,
but the North Sea is a prime location for experimentation and
exploitation of these technologies. It therefore feels a natural
fit to see a Green Freeport in Aberdeen and Peterhead become the
home of exploration into new and more efficient techniques, and the
manufacturing and the sale of the required infrastructure.
Drones and Flying Taxis
There is a green revolution starting in aviation, and it’s
already starting to influence the maritime industry with large
drones being used for sea rescue and survey. A combination of new
battery technology, superior wing design and new materials are now
enabling the design of cutting edge all-electric aircraft. With the
UK already being at the forefront of the development of this
technology, there is a real opportunity to capture such a lucrative
manufacturing market in an Aberdeenshire and Peterhead Green
A Green Freeport such as that proposed in Aberdeen with access
to a local airport for flight trials and tests would prove an ideal
location for manufacture and integration of this exciting new
Hydrogen Fuel for Maritime Transport
Storage space and transportation are key considerations in the
use of hydrogen as a fuel. With liquefied hydrogen typically being
imported via shipping and natural gas pipeline infrastructure
(which holds the potential to be converted exclusively for hydrogen
transportation use), production and storage of hydrogen as a fuel
could be best suited to an Aberdeenshire or Peterhead maritime port
and its surrounding areas.
Hydrogen is one of the fuels that has a high potential in
fuelling maritime transport, and transferring the UK’s proven
skills in hydrogen aviation to maritime is a small step that could
yield large results – and job opportunities – if
manufacturing centres within an Aberdeenshire and Peterhead Green
Freeport area were created.
Small Modular Reactors
The main feature of small modular reactors is that, instead of
the traditional construction site, subsystems are manufactured in
sections and then transported to the reactor site, where they are
Alternatively, instead of a large traditional construction site,
subsystems could be manufactured in sections to be assembled on the
reactor site, within the Green Freeport. This would be more
efficient due to economies of scale and the use of standardised
manufacturing processes for its components. Any Green Freeport
could be an ideal location for these standard components,
particularly those that rely on imported subsystems or raw and
Many of the small modular reactor components would rely on
high-quality manufacturing, and Aberdeenshire and Peterhead’s
maritime ports and the surrounding areas have the infrastructure
and skills potential for this industry. Small modular reactors have
the potential to revolutionize low-carbon power around the world,
with it being feasible that every Aberdeenshire and/or Peterhead
port has at least one small modular reactor powering their
surrounding areas, and its ships. Further, with energy facilities
decommissioning at a faster rate than new build, this could be the
impetus needed to retain the UK’s nuclear industry.
Floating Data Centres
The global thirst for data is increasing exponentially and is
likely to continue. Data storage and retrieval requires electrical
power for running the computers, keeping them cool and
communicating the data around the world.
There could be a scenario where data storage was entirely green.
One technology prime for utilization within a Green Freeport is
subsea data centres. With the likes of Microsoft sinking their
experimental subsea data centre in the waters around Orkney, the
idea of storage and computing underwater now seems to carry huge
potential. Perhaps the answer to our ever-increasing thirst for
data storage and computing power is to create an offshore combined
economy of submerged power generation and data, using technologies
such as wave or tidal to power subsea data centres?
An Aberdeenshire and Peterhead Green Freeport has the very real
potential to become a hub of innovation, manufacture and
maintenance, hosting these offshore green data services and
bringing hi-tech jobs and commerce to remote communities in the
North East of Scotland.
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