Ayrshire cable plant that could support thousands of jobs gets full green light

A North Ayrshire factory producing subsea cables has been given the green light in a move that could support thousands of jobs.

North Ayrshire Council has granted full planning permission for XLCC’s manufacturing operations at Hunterston, with the decision paving the way for construction to commence. It follows outline planning permission granted last year. Work on the site will start in early 2024 with cable production slated for 2026. The firm has previously indicated that the facility would support 900 jobs in the area, but it is expected that it could support thousands more in the wider supply chain.

Demand for high-voltage cables is predicted to increase six-fold over the next seven years, as many countries look globally to expand their sources of renewable energy. XLCC’s first order is for four 3,800-kilometre-long cables to connect solar and wind renewable power generation in the Sahara to the UK for the Xlinks Morocco-UK power project. The firm has also secured additional memorandum of understandings for domestic projects.

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XLCC chief executive Ian Douglas said: “To deliver the energy transition and achieve net zero, the improved global transmission of electricity is critical. Put simply, there can be no transition without transmission. As demand for [high-voltage] cables continues to boom, we are excited to bring such a significant project to an area with a proud industrial pedigree. We thank the local community and North Ayrshire Council for their constructive engagement and support during the process, and we look forward to working with them and other local partners to ensure the factory delivers maximum benefits to Hunterston and the wider region.”

The firm said development of the brownfield site at Hunterston would create a new UK industry to support global decarbonisation targets. The company will provide a number of different services including high-voltage direct current (HVDC) subsea extruded cable, as well as cable laying, protection and repair.

XLCC produces cables that run deep under the sea in most cases, enabling the transfer of renewable power from generation sites to end users. In this way, subsea cable technology is seen as having a significant impact in reducing the environmental consequences of electricity generation consumption around the globe.

The granting of full planning permission follows on from the 2021 signing of an option agreement with Hunterston Parc owner Peel Ports Clydeport. The plan also includes the construction of research and development labs, offices, stores, electrical infrastructure and a high-tech cable delivery system, taking over almost a quarter of the land available for development at the former ore and coal terminal.

Peel Ports Clydeport director Jim McSporran said at the time: “We are very excited by the signing of this option, which if realised would result in many hundreds of high-quality jobs in one of Scotland’s highest unemployment areas. The technology which is to be developed by XLCC would be a game changer for deep sea renewable energy transmission and certainly falls into our vision remit. Hunterston is a site with a level of infrastructure assets unique to the UK and possibly Europe, and we believe its time has come.”

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