Scotland's largest offshore windfarm - which will save eight million tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime and generates enough energy to power 450,000 homes - has been officially has been officially opened by The Duke of Rothesay.
The Beatrice windfarm located eight miles off the coast of Wick is the fourth largest in the world and the largest ever single private investment in Scotland at £2.5bn. It has been in planning for a decade.
The farm was developed by Scottish-headquartered energy firm, SSE Renewables, in partnership with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Red Rock Power.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Scotland is already generating record amounts of power from renewable sources helping us to avoid millions of tonnes of climate-wrecking carbon emissions every year. The addition of power from huge offshore wind farms such Beatrice will help us to decarbonise even more of our economy, including our heating and transport sectors.
“We’re in the middle of a climate emergency and renewables will continue to play a critical role in powering the country, creating jobs, and reducing carbon emissions. For Scotland to unlock its full potential to provide the whole of the UK with plentiful and cost effective renewable electricity, the UK Government needs to get fully behind wind power, both on and offshore.”
Construction of the wind farm, Scotland’s single largest source of renewable energy, has provided a £2.4bn economic boost to the UK, of which £1bn went directly to Scotland.
Jim Smith, Managing Director of SSE Renewables said: “Today is about celebrating the hard work, innovation, drive and collaboration of thousands of people from across Scotland, the UK and further afield who all played their part in building Beatrice, which is now Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm and the fourth largest in the world.
“We’re incredibly proud it’s been delivered on time and under budget, even when dealing with the challenges the North Sea and deep waters bring. We’re especially proud of the significant positive impact Beatrice has already made to the communities of Wick and Caithness, and which will last for decades to come."
He added: “The UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world and this world-class offshore project paves the way for future development in Scotland and the UK to help decarbonise our economy while boosting jobs and growth.
“Most importantly, Beatrice will save around eight million tonnes of harmful carbon emissions over its 25-year lifetime operation, making one of the most significant contributions across the UK in combating climate change and meeting our net zero ambitions.”
SSE Renewables will operate the project, which will support up to 90 long-term jobs – from offshore technicians to office administrators – with the majority based in the rural community of Wick.
Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: "The scale of the Beatrice project is truly staggering: almost twice the investment of the Queensferry Crossing; the fourth largest offshore wind farm in the world, and all happening in the North East of Scotland. This is quite simply the most exciting renewable energy development in the UK right now.
"Scotland has a quarter of Europe's offshore wind resource and Beatrice represents one of the first steps in tapping it. As our offshore wind projects continue to build out we'll see the environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind grow across Scotland, with jobs and investment transforming communities, as they already are in Wick."
Beatrice will also benefit the local community to the tune of £34m over the lifetime of the wind farm. Two Beatrice Community Benefit funds, totalling £6m, have been established to deliver sustainable investment in the local community including coastal towns and villages as well as the wider Highland and Moray areas. Beatrice has paid a further £28m into a Coastal Community Fund, which will be delivered by the Scottish Government.
Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said: “At 588MW it is the largest offshore wind development in Scotland to date and can provide electricity for a huge number of homes and businesses. I am also very encouraged by the positive impacts the project has had, such as the regeneration of Wick harbour and the role Scottish fabricators and suppliers have played in its construction.
“In order to maximise economic opportunities a collaborative effort is required between Governments and industry to ensure that our vision for a vibrant offshore wind sector in Scotland is achieved."
He added: “There is a significant pipeline of consented projects, including two further consented sites locally, and, as we look to future licensing rounds, we will seek to fully exploit the wider offshore wind sector opportunities for the Scottish economy while showing due regard for our incredible marine environment. This site, in an area once the home to an active oil field, but now home to this tremendous renewable energy development, is now a very tangible example of the global low carbon transition that is now well underway.”