WICK is to reap the benefits of being the service base for the construction of one of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world.
Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (Bowl) has announced it is to use the Caithness harbour during and after development of the massive project, which is expected to create thousands of jobs and generate millions of pounds for the Highlands.
The Beatrice wind farm is expected to have up to 110 turbines and generate up to 664 megawatts of renewable electricity.
The development was approved by Marine Scotland in March and was granted an investment contract by the UK government in May.
Along with a neighbouring project by Moray Offshore Renewables, the massive combined wind farm 14 miles off the coast of Caithness will be the third-largest in the world.
Bowl, a joint venture between SSE Renewables and Repsol Nuevas Energias UK, said Wick Harbour would become the location of its operations and maintenance base (O&M).
Willie Watt, chairman of Wick Harbour Authority, said: “We look forward to working closely with Bowl in order to deliver what we hope will be a hub for offshore renewables in the Highlands.”
Once constructed, the combined wind farm schemes will be more than double the scale of the 175-turbine London Array, in the Thames Estuary. They could be worth up to £2.5 billion over their lifetime and generate up to 4,600 jobs during construction, and up to 580 once in operation.
Richard Escott, head of offshore development for SSE Renewables, said: “Out of all the locations investigated, Wick presented the best fit for our project and we are hugely impressed by the existing facilities on offer.
“We are pleased to announce that a memorandum of understanding has been signed with Wick Harbour Authority that could see Beatrice base its O&M facilities at Wick Harbour should a positive final
investment decision be made on the project in 2016.”
Ronnie Bonnar, managing director of Repsol Nuevas Energias UK, said the agreement marked another key step towards finally beginning construction.
He added: “We are pleased that we have an agreement to use an existing harbour near our site and hope to make a
positive contribution to the communities in which we live and work.”
The announcement was welcomed by Wick Harbour Authority, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and The Highland Council.
Roy Kirk, HIE’s area manager for Caithness and Sutherland described the news as “fantastic”.
He added: “Caithness is well positioned to capitalise on the offshore industry and we are working hard to ensure that any opportunities are maximised for the local area.”
Highland Council leader Drew Hendry said: “The benefits from this development are expected to make a positive difference locally and we hope this announcement will lead to further investment from offshore partners in the Highland and Moray Firth region.”