Ross ports could reap benefits as £3bn offshore wind scheme moves forward
MAJOR investment opportunities for Highland ports could be in the offing after a £3 billion development to build an offshore wind farm took a key step forward.
The 277-turbine development in the Outer Moray Firth, which has won the backing of Highland Council, could inject £125 million into the region’s economy and bring up to 950 jobs.
It is the second multi-billion offshore development to get the green light from councillors in only three months.
The council’s north planning committee has agreed not to object to plans for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited and a final decision is expected from the Scottish Government later this year.
The giant development would be about eight miles off the Caithness coast.
If the project, which is a joint venture between SSE Renewables and Repsol Nuevas Energias UK, is given the go-ahead, it could provide 1000MW of electricity to power more than 796,000 homes.
Councillors were told by planning official David Mudie that the scheme would pour £313m into the national economy, of which £125m is expected to flow into the Highlands.
“There are significant opportunities related to the supply chains in the Highlands,” said Mr Mudie, who pinpointed Wick, Nigg, Invergordon and the Port of Ardersier as possible hubs which could prosper.
He said the investment benefits outweighed objector concerns about the visual impact.
Construction could start in two years time and electricity could be exported by 2018 from the site.
The developer is to investigate whether the turbines could be manufactured in the region and could also open a visitor centre interpretation facilities along the east Caithness/Sutherland route.
In March, the council gave its backing to build one of the world’s largest offshore windfarms off the east coast of Caithness for Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd’s £4.5 billion project to build 339 turbines.
Committee member Councillor Alex MacLeod (Caithness) said the Beatrice wind farm’s construction would put the Highlands firmly on the map as the main renewables base in Scotland while Wick colleague Bill Fernie said it presented a great opportunity to upgrade the town’s harbour.
Kirstanne McDowall, spokeswoman for the Beatrice wind farm, said it was too early to say exactly how many jobs could be created or what improvements could be in the pipeline for local harbours.
Committee vice-chairwoman, Ross-shire councillor Audrey Sinclair, expressed concerns about the potential impact on shipping in the area and sought assurances that local fishing interests would be represented on a working group.
Thirty-eight objections, mainly concerns about the visual impact of the development, were lodged with the authority with only one letter in support.
Veteran Ross-shire councillor Biz Campbell said the investment would “help put food in peoples’ mouths” which was more important than lanscape fears.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation was also opposed to the project and called for the impact on local wildlife businesses to be measured.
Tain Community Council supported the giant wind farm stating that it would help meet national renewable energy targets and combat global warming, while Tannich and District Community Council raised concerns about local fishing interest when the turbines are in operation.