Development of the marine energy sector, specifically wave and tidal energy, provides a significant and sustainable economic growth opportunity for Scotland over the next decade and beyond.
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The Highlands and Islands Marine Renewables Infrastructure Plan (H&Is MRIP) seeks to provide an early assessment of the emerging marine energy industry needs in terms of infrastructure, quayside, water depth, fabrication facilities, craneage and marine resources and to identify the suitability of current infrastructure provision throughout the Highlands and Islands in meeting such needs.
What is presented in the H&Is MRIP report is a snapshot, at this time in 2014, of what port and fabrication infrastructure will be needed, focusing on capabilities and capacities in manufacturing, assembly/construction and installation, operations and maintenance, as well as sites with the ability to support activities such as refuge, wet storage of marine energy devices and unplanned or unscheduled maintenance.
The H&Is MRIP report along with associated Environmental Report and Strategic Environmental Site Assessments can be accessed below.
Machrihanish, near Campbeltown, Arnish, near Stornway and Nigg on the Cromarty Firth. Just a few examples of the investments going into infrastructure across the Highlands and Islands.
Significant investment has been made in developing the Machrihanish site as a wind tower manufacturing plant – the only one in Scotland. This has brought sustainable employment to one of the country’s most fragile rural economies, with 134 currently employed by Wind Towers (Scotland) Ltd – a business now 80.1% owned and operated by SSE with 19.9% investment from HIE.
Campbeltown is one of few lee ports on the west coast offering a sheltered harbour with 9m dredged depth and easy access to Machrihanish where extensive areas of secure hardstanding are available beside the turbine tower factory. As such it is ideally placed to support the offshore renewables market given its proximity to two of Scotland’s seven proposed offshore wind farm sites and five tidal and wave energy sites.
In the Outer Hebrides, Arnish is a key strategic site, investor ready, offering a manufacturing, assembly and deployment hub. Investment in Arnish has created a fully serviced site with deep water, heavy load quay facilities, providing a range of flexible serviced plots. Arnish is a key NRIP site, has Enterprise Area designation and is well positioned to attract inward investment and provide for expansion of existing businesses. Arnish offers excellent opportunities within high growth business sectors associated with marine engineering that can support future national and international investments in both the renewable energy, and oil and gas sectors.
Another remarkable resurrection is the Nigg Yard in Easter Ross, built on the back of Global Energy Group’s (GEG) long-awaited purchase of the Nigg Yard back in October 2011. The developments since then have been rapid. The Nigg Energy Park, as it is now known, is totally revamped, employing 1000 people and buzzing with activity – oil and gas, specialist fabrication for the nuclear decommissioning industry, and with strong interest from the renewables sector. There has been a transformation of the yard, with dereliction cleared, new roads built, the fabrication sheds cleaned and painted, all full of work, whilst oil rigs are re-furbished in the dry dock.
Right at the heart of its regeneration is the Nigg Skills Academy, set up last year with funding from Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council and HIE. The project aims to create 310 newly-skilled employees in its first year and 3000 by 2015.
Ports and harbours are critical in moving the industry forward, and a key part of our region’s energy proposition. Significant activity and investment is also underway across other parts of the region, including sites in Caithness, Orkney, Wester Ross, Inner Moray Firth and Moray all gearing up to service the renewables sector. Indeed in the past 24-36 months we have seen over £80m of investment either underway or committed in ports around the Highlands and Islands. But that £80m is just the start, as to compete in the European and global market places, substantial investment is required in these sites.
Kishorn Port Ltd is being supported by HIE to work with The Highland Council in a masterplanning process, leading to a formal planning application for full-scale manufacture of concrete structures alongside other mixed uses for the offshore energy markets, including wind, wave and tidal. The plan allows for up to 2,500 jobs on site, accommodation for 1,500 staff, related storage, warehousing, berthing and workshops and includes reclamation of the foreshore to create additional lay down areas.
Kishorn has a long and proud history in energy manufacturing and the advent of the renewables age looks likely to give the site a whole new lease of life. Trident Energy is leasing part of the site for sea trials of a prototype electricity generator using wave power.
Buckie is already playing a role in the offshore wind market, supporting operations of the Beatrice Offshore Wind Demonstrator Project. The local authority-owned port could continue to host Windcat-type vessels for crew transfer for operations and maintenance for future developments in the Moray Firth.
Wick Harbour Authority (WHA) is also progressing plans to allow it to play an active role in supporting the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the offshore wind farm developments in the Moray Firth. As the port closest to these developments, there are clear opportunities, and HIE and its public partners are working closely with WHA to transform this port into an O&M base for offshore wind farms.
Scrabster has been identified as a key site for marine energy developments in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters (PFOW) – the location of the world’s first commercial-scale leasing round. A major £20m development in new quayside and a heavy lift pad is almost complete, opening the door for global tidal energy leaders, such as Meygen and Atlantis, who will be looking to deploy their tidal arrays during 2014-15.
Orkney continues to be at the heart of the global marine energy industry and HIE and Orkney Islands Council (OIC) are focused on ensuring that the appropriate infrastructure is in place to meet the needs of the wave and tidal sector. OIC, as the owners and operators of Hatston, Lyness and Stromness, have a port strategy and investment plan in place.
The region’s infrastructure offering was further strengthened last year when the Scottish Government announced five sites (Nigg, Arnish, Scrabster, Lyness and Hatston) that will benefit from Enterprise Area (EA) status. The sites will form the Renewable Energy Enterprise North Zone, and will offer business rates reductions or in the case of Nigg enhanced capital allowances for plant and machinery.
EA status for each site is about making things happen faster, where each site has land available that can be quickly developed to attract renewables activity, create new jobs and stimulate economic growth across the region. Of course, other ports and harbours in the region will also benefit from the wider supply chain opportunities stimulated by the new Enterprise Areas.
The Cromarty Firth Port Authority’s Invergordon site is well suited and located for offshore wind developments in the Moray Firth, and as such is developing plans to service the offshore wind farm sector during construction and for ongoing operations and maintenance. The Port of Ardersier is receiving significant interest from potential inward investors as its hundreds of acres of development land make it an attractive location for all parts of the offshore wind supply chain.
The offshore wind, wave and tidal sector is growing rapidly, and sites in the Highlands and Islands are located closest to the majority of Scotland’s offshore renewables projects, and are ideally positioned to become key hubs for industry.
It is clear that this is an opportunity for the whole of Scotland, the UK and Ireland, but one where the Highlands and Islands can punch well above its weight.