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Prince Charles hails offshore wind farm as 'remarkable engineering feat'

By David G Scott

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PRINCE Charles has paid tribute to everyone involved in creating the Beatrice offshore wind farm, describing it as a "remarkable engineering feat".

He was speaking Monday as he officially opened world’s fourth largest offshore wind farm, comprising 84 turbines located some 13km off the east coast of Caithness. It will generate enough energy to power 450,000 homes a year.

Invited guests looked on as Prince Charles, known as the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland, unveiled a plaque in the Beatrice operations and maintenance base in restored Thomas Telford buildings on Wick's Harbour Quay.

From left, Steve Wilson project director of Bowl, SSE chairman Richard Gillingwater, Prince Charles, Lord Thurso and Robert Lovie.
From left, Steve Wilson project director of Bowl, SSE chairman Richard Gillingwater, Prince Charles, Lord Thurso and Robert Lovie.

Prince Charles arrived around 11am to the sounds of Wick RBLS Pipe Band and was greeted by Lord Thurso, his wife Marion and a variety of politicians and executives connected to the Bowl development.

The prince took the opportunity to take a walk around the assembled crowds and talked to various local people and tourists as well as greeting pipe band members.

Prince Charles took a tour around the Bowl HQ and talked with some of the staff about the environmental impact of the turbines. He was reassured that marine ecology was said to thrive around the site.

The large hall which would normally be used to store equipment at the Bowl HQ was turned into a glitzy exhibition display replete with a massive LED screen showing corporate videos of the offshore wind farm development.

The chairman of SSE, Richard Gillingwater, officially welcomed the prince and addressed the invited guests and media.

"The exhibition in this room tells the remarkable story of Beatrice, from the installation of the world’s deepest water offshore wind turbines to the restoration of these remarkable Thomas Telford buildings to become home to the wind farm’s operations and maintenance team," he said.

"But I believe the most important thing about Beatrice is that a site which started out as an oilfield is now home to a wind farm that will produce enough clean energy each year to power up to 450,000 homes.

"I strongly believe that the purpose of business must be to provide solutions to the problems facing people and the environment around them – and I believe the greatest problem we face is climate change.

"Beatrice is therefore a stellar example of how the skills and ingenuity of business, supported by progressive public policy, can make a vital contribution towards the achievement of net zero emissions across the UK by 2050."

Mr Gillingwater went on to thank all who had made the project a reality and then all the invited guests.

Addressing His Royal Highness, he said: "Your association with, and commitment to, the county of Caithness are well known, as is your focus on the challenge of climate change, and so it gives me great pleasure to ask you to open officially the Beatrice offshore wind farm."

Prince Charles was then invited to officially unveil the plaque. He said: "Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to unveil this plaque, wondering whether it might end up on the building here or one of the turbines. I congratulate all those involved for a remarkable engineering feat and it gives me great pleasure in opening the new Beatrice offshore wind farm."

Gail Ross, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: "This is something we should be immensely proud of."

Mrs Ross highlighted the role of Wick Harbour Authority, which had been "instrumental" in the regeneration of the harbour and for generating new work for the area.

She said: "It is hugely important to recognise how this plays a massive part in the Scottish Government's climate emergency and we will do all we can to support the renewable industries going forward."

Earlier, Oliver Cass, finance director of Bowl, had escorted reporters out to the wind farm on one of the marine support vessels while conditions were overcast and misty. The blanket of mist and cloud enveloping most of the site did not detract from the scale of the turbines.

"Today is an immensely significant day for the project which has been 10 years in the making," he said. Mr Cass added that after three years of construction the site is now ready for a 25-year operational period.

He also spoke of his respect for Prince Charles's vision for renewable energy and was delighted that he was was visiting Wick to officially open the fourth largest operational wind farm operation in the world. "It is also the single largest source of renewable energy in Scotland," he said.

Lottie van Drieken, the catering manager at the official opening, gave away one of the secrets of the royal cup of tea which she had made for His Royal Highness. "He has Earl Grey tea with local honey and a little bit of milk."

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