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Far north could be training base for ops and maintenance for offshore industry

By Gordon Calder

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CAITHNESS could become a base for training people in operations and maintenance work for the offshore wind industry, trade unionists have been told.

Peter Faccenda, manager of the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership, made the comment when he addressed a meeting of Thurso and Wick Trade Union Council this week.

He noted that Wick is established as the operations and maintenance base for the £2.5 billion Beatrice offshore wind farm and said the county could help train people for such work in conjunction with North Highland College UHI in Thurso.

Wick is the operations and maintenance base for the Beatrice offshore wind project.
Wick is the operations and maintenance base for the Beatrice offshore wind project.

Mr Faccenda told Wednesday night's meeting that it may be possible to attract people to the area to be trained.

It was pointed out a helicopter based at Wick John O'Groats Airport is used to transfer staff to Beatrice, along with several vessels that are berthed at the town's harbour.

Mr Faccenda also said Wick could get some work in relation to other offshore developments in the Moray Firth and said seabed leases are being offered to offshore wind developers by the Crown Estate. They include an area between south-west Orkney and the north coast of Caithness.

"Various people are interested in putting in bids for them, although they are likely to be floating rather then fixed structures," he said. "That, too, could provide opportunities for work in the area."

Mr Faccenda mentioned that the operators of the Moray West wind project, off the Caithness coast, are still committed to the scheme although it did not win a Contract for Difference (CfD) which is the UK Government’s main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation.

A bid could be made again in 2021. The company behind the venture, EDP Renewables and ENGIE,planned to start construction in 2022 but that has been put back now to 2024.

The neighbouring Moray East offshore wind farm was granted consent in 2014 and was awarded a CfD in 2017.

Later, Mr Faccenda explained that Simec Atlantis Energy, the company behind the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth, plans to set up the first tidal-powered data centre in the world.

It would cost around £200 million and could be operational in five years' time.

The data centre – a base for computer, telecommunications and storage systems – would be powered by energy from tidal turbines in the Inner Sound. According to Simec, 40 turbines would be required for the venture with about 120 staff needed to maintain them.

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