HIE area manager for Caithness and Sutherland points to 'significant opportunities' in offshore wind
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Offshore wind will offer "significant opportunities" for the far north economy over the next decade, according to Eann Sinclair of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Mr Sinclair, the development agency's area manager for Caithness and Sutherland, noted that there would be some disappointment at a recently announced delay to ScotWind Leasing. The main aim of this process is to grant property rights for the seabed in Scottish waters for new commercial-scale offshore wind projects.
Mr Sinclair said: “While some developers will be disappointed by the delay to announcing the ScotWind leasing round, I think we can remain confident that interest in the zones off the east and north coasts of our area is very strong.
"Both fixed and floating offshore wind offer significant opportunities for us over the coming decade at a time of uncertainty in other industries.”
The leasing auction for sites in waters around England and Wales triggered the move by Crown Estate Scotland to review the leasing process, which is scheduled to be completed March 24. That means the original deadline for applications to ScotWind Leasing – the first round of offshore wind leasing in Scottish waters for a decade – will now be later than the previously stated March 31 deadline.
Crown Estate Scotland confirmed earlier this month it was reviewing the option structure for the leasing process and said the decision had been taken with the support of Scottish Government ministers.
Claire Mack, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: "Developing an offshore wind farm does not begin and end with deploying turbines in the sea and our members have already invested many thousands of hours, and many millions of pounds, preparing to bid into the ScotWind Leasing process.
"That process is already 14 months overdue. Those companies will therefore be disappointed and intensely frustrated at this further delay.
"It is vital now that the scope of this review is as focused as possible, and that any delay to the overall process is minimised in order to reduce uncertainty."
Wick is the operations and maintenance base for the 84-turbine Beatrice offshore wind farm in the outer Moray Firth. The 100-turbine Moray East project, also off the east coast, is expected to be fully operational by 2022.
There are plans to install between six and 10 floating turbines around six kilometres north-west of Dounreay. Highland councillor Matthew Reiss has predicted that the proposed Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm could be the precursor of "several Beatrice-sized wind farm projects" in the waters off the north coast, offering "an enormous opportunity" for the area.