'Fabulous' engineering base means Caithness is well placed for renewable energy growth
Get the Courier and Groat sent to your inbox every week and swipe through an exact replica of the day's newspaper
Development agency chief Charlotte Wright has said Caithness is ideally placed to support the growth in offshore wind and other renewables thanks to the county's "fabulous" engineering base.
She pointed out that the skills available in the area are applicable across sectors and highlighted the investment that has been made at Wick and Scrabster harbours.
Ms Wright was speaking after she and other senior figures from HIE had taken part in a board engagement session with businesses, community groups and representative bodies from the far north.
HIE's Caithness and Sutherland area manager, Eann Sinclair, said the "baseline for our expectations for offshore wind" were founded on the Wick-based Beatrice development. Much would depend on the outcome of the delayed ScotWind Leasing process, the main aim of which is to grant property rights for the seabed in Scottish waters for new commercial-scale offshore wind projects.
“Beatrice has been a real success in many ways, not just for the number of people it employs but the fact that it has made such a difference to the harbour front in Wick as well from a structural point of view," Mr Sinclair said.
“But the next phase of offshore wind is dependent on the current leasing round that is in the hands of Crown Estate Scotland and we're not expecting to see the full details on who the runners and riders are coming out the other end of that leasing round until maybe into the autumn this year. They paused that leasing round a couple of months ago.
“The sites that are off the east coast and the north coast have already attracted interest and we hope that is maintained in the restarted auction round. I don't think we know enough yet to say where the balance will be between floating and fixed.”
Ms Wright said: “I think it's fair to say it is a great opportunity, and investments that have been made in the harbours in Wick and Scrabster actually add to the asset base and opportunity to build on there. Absolutely we are well positioned.
“Caithness has a fabulous engineering base which can play across sectors."
She said this was a strong part of what the area had to offer, not only in offshore wind but for other forms of renewables such as marine and tidal.
Ms Wright added: “I think we are getting closer to seeing that opportunity that has been talked about for a long time really being realised in terms of jobs. ScotWind Leasing is the biggest single opportunity we have seen since renewables really started happening."