Orkney has always had a strong connection to the sea. This archipelago is famed for its farming, but generations of Orcadians have also looked to the waters surrounding the islands for food, for materials and for a living.
That relationship continues today as engineers and developers try to harness clean energy from our waves and tides. The emerging renewables industry has helped the local economy grow, with a burgeoning supply chain on hand to tackle even the toughest operations.
One of the Orkney companies at the forefront of the sector is Green Marine. With a background in the fishing industry, the Stromness-based business has quickly earned an excellent reputation for its marine energy work.
“In 2012 we saw gaps in what providers were offering to the renewables industry in Orkney and decided that we could offer a service that was much more sustainable,” said Jason Schofield, Green Marine’s Managing Director.
“We took our expertise built up from many years in the fishing industry – our knowledge of the waters, the tides, vessel handling, as well as our experienced crews - and started operations work using our fishing vessels.”
Jason felt it was an opportunity not to be missed. When he launched Green Marine the Crown Estate was ready to sell sea-bed leases to potential developers, and the fishing industry was in a downturn. “We saw this as a more sustainable industry to move into,” said Jason. “We entered with a long-term vision based on organic growth and we’ve just progressed from there.”
That’s an understatement. Green Marine has consigned its refurbished fishing fleet to the past and now boasts eight dedicated vessels, including gantry barges, tugs, workboats and RIBs. The team has grown to include naval architects and project managers, and recent clients include Sustainable Marine Energy Ltd, Prosafe and Atlantis Resources.
“We do a lot of oil and gas work too,” said Jason. “Added to that we provide vessels and engineering services to all offshore works, we offer towage and salvage services, carry out crew transfers and cable laying - we’ve seen steady growth recently and year on year we’ve increased our workforce and equipment.”
That growth has seen Green Marine expand its operations further afield too. Clients are now based as far afield as France, Finland and Sweden, with potential projects in Canada next in line for the ambitious team.
But it’s Orkney’s renewable energy industry that continues to form the backbone of the business. The islands have seen dozens of developers arrive in recent years, all with prototype devices and designs to be installed at the European Marine Energy Centre’s test sites, and all with different requirements. It was this challenge that first sparked Jason’s attention.
“To begin with a lot of developers were using oil and gas assets to carry out their offshore work and the cost of that approach just wasn’t sustainable,” he said. “What we started to offer was a long-term service that worked with each developer and each device to create bespoke installation plans.”
Green Marine has been integral in the development of this new way of working and has even created a new lift frame, bringing the proposal from concept through to design and build. The frame is currently undergoing commissioning works in Stromness.
There is now a real connection between the industry and the local supply chain which has grown around it. With that growth, Orkney’s reputation as a centre for excellence in the sector has continued to spread too. For Jason, that’s down to the expertise available in the islands.
“The impression I get from our clients is that there is a real willingness from local companies to make things happen here,” he said. “We can provide a range of services that means they don’t need to go anywhere else. It can all be done here in Orkney.”
After a busy and successful six years, it certainly appears that Green Marine is well set to continue to make waves in the marine energy world for some time to come.
You can also discover more about Orkney's renewable energy industry at the Orkney Marine Renewables website.
The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.