Pick Everard helps power up offshore wind farm for SSE

Beatrice wind farmHistorical maritime buildings in the harbour of Wick in Caithness will be brought back into operation when renovated to act as the hub for one of the largest new offshore wind farms in the UK.

Work is well underway to build the £2.6 billion, 84 turbine offshore wind farm in the outer Moray Firth. Designed by world famous Scottish engineer Thomas Telford in 1807, the conservation of the onshore maritime buildings will play a key part in generating 588MW of sustainable energy from the wind farm to go into the grid.

Independent management, design and construction consultancy Pick Everard is part of the team who will be delivering the onshore aspects of the project alongside HRI/Munro Architects.

Inverness and Glasgow-based Pick Everard is delivering mechanical and engineering services for the £10 million land base which will service the windfarm commissioned by Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL). Once complete, the wind farm will power approximately 450,000 homes (around three times the number of homes in the Moray and Highland regions).

23rdJan__HRI-Architects_BOWL-Photomontage_045 low resDoug Soutar, director at Pick Everard, said: “This is such an exciting project to work on and one that is key in helping us to continue to deliver sustainable energy for the future.

“The onshore element of the project comprises the conservation, re-planning and part reconstruction of two blocks of the historic Old Pulteneytown area of Wick.

“These buildings are more than 200 years old and have a longstanding history of being used for maritime purposes. We are pleased to be helping to bring them back into service again following planning permission from the Highland Council.”

Wick has provided a safe haven for fishing, commercial, and leisure vessels for the last 150 years or so with the harbour consisting of three basins. The Inner and Outer Harbours are the main fishing and leisure berths, and the River Harbour is the commercial area.

Steve Wilson, senior project manager for SSE, said: “Renovation of the iconic Thomas Telford buildings in Wick is well underway and has been progressing well. These buildings will become our long term Operations and Maintenance base for Beatrice Windfarm.

“These Thomas Telford buildings are a symbol of Wick’s industrial and marine past so we are really pleased to be utilising them and in doing so help continue that legacy. We’ve been very pleased with the support there has been in the area.”

The Beatrice wind farm will be operational in 2019. It is one of the largest private investments ever made in Scottish infrastructure, bringing economic and community benefits to the area. Beatrice will also create opportunities with job creations across the region, skills training, investment in Scottish ports and harbours, supply chain opportunities and community benefit funding.

Agreement reached over Stronelairg legal battle costs

Court of Session

Court of Session

SSE and the John Muir Trust (JMT) have reached a settlement in relation to court expenses incurred due to a dispute over a planned wind farm in the Highlands.

In July last year, the Court of Session overturned a previous decision to halt development of the 67-turbine Stronelairg wind farm in the Monadhliath Mountains near Inverness.

As a result, the John Muir Trust ended its legal action against the project, stating the legal battle against the development had consumed a “significant amount of time and money”.

SSE then began the process of pursuing £350,000 in court costs’ settlements from the Trust.

However, the JMT has agreed to pay £50,000 in final settlement for the legal case.

The charity said: “This agreement, combined with the £75,000 agreed with the Scottish Government last month, ends our liability for the Stronelairg legal case. The Trust is extremely grateful to our legal team who supported us throughout and minimised their costs where possible.

“This is a positive outcome, and we are grateful to the many supporters of our Stronelairg campaign, who have enabled us to meet all of the legal costs from our existing campaign funds.”

SSE said it would pass on the full settlement to Visit Inverness Loch Ness, a not for profit organisation in the Great Glen. The funds will be used to contribute towards the South Loch Ness Trail, which is a project to complete a walking and cycling trail round the whole of Loch Ness.

Paul Cooley, SSE director of generation development, said: “We are pleased to reach a reasonable conclusion with the John Muir Trust on the issue of expenses for the Judicial Review process. We are also happy to be able to gift those funds to the excellent South Loch Ness Trail project which will allow many members of the local community and tourists alike to enjoy all the Loch has to offer for years to come.”

SSE added construction work on the Stronelairg wind farm is progressing well and the project is expected to be complete by October 2018.

Robertson’s Specialist Division eyes expansion following breakthrough deal

Craig Robertson

Craig Robertson

Robertson Group has secured work for energy giant SSE worth around £560,000 – marking the first time its Specialist Division will serve as a main contractor.

In January, Craig Robertson joined as managing director of Robertson Specialist Division with the remit of doubling turnover within two years.

The contract win marks a major step towards that goal, with the firm set to install external wall insulation at homes in the Dundee area on behalf of SSE.

Craig Robertson said: “This business has ambitious targets for growth and if we want to meet those goals then securing larger contracts is essential.

“In the past we have served as a sub-contractor, both for other businesses within Robertson Group and for external companies. This represents the first contract where we will be the main contractor and illustrates the positive progress we are making.

“And while much of our focus previously has been on providing joinery services, we’re now looking to add even more strings to our bow, with the work we will deliver for SSE an example of what we can offer clients.”

As a further sign of the firm’s expansion, it has recruited a new commercial manager who will work closely with Craig to identify and secure larger contracts across Scotland for Robertson Specialist Division.

Jason Paynter joined the firm earlier this month from Tilecraft, where he served in a similar role. A trained quantity surveyor and supply chain manager, he previously worked for Morris and Spottiswood.

Craig added: “When I joined in January I said if we wanted to achieve our goals we’d need to nurture some of the best young talent in the industry. Jason fits that bill, although he also brings plenty of experience which he has gained over the last decade.”

Hochtief cleared in SSE £130m damages claim over Glendoe tunnel collapse

Glendoe SSEEnergy firm SSE has lost a court battle over a £130 million damages claim following the collapse of a tunnel at its Glendoe hydro scheme.

It took legal action against engineering contractor Hochtief which carried out tunnelling work at the site near Fort Augustus.

A rock fall in the tunnel carrying water from the scheme reservoir to the power station in August 2009 caused the hydro scheme to close just months after it had opened. Operations did not resume at the scheme until almost three years later.

A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that the main part of the SSE claim has failed.

Lord Woolman said: “I am satisfied that Hochtief did exercise reasonable skill and care.

“I reject SSE’s case as it depends on the accumulation and interpretation of all the data that has been obtained since the collapse. Put short, it is founded on hindsight.

“The collapse was not due to a defect that existed at take over. Accordingly, it was an employer’s risk event.”

But the judge also held that the contractor did breach obligations by not returning to repair the tunnel and said he was minded to award SSE £1m “low availability damages” – the capped limit for compensation if the hydro plant failed to achieve certain targets in the two years after completion.

An SSE spokeswoman said: “SSE is disappointed with the ruling by the Court of Session on the compensation claim relating to repair work at our Glendoe Hydro Scheme near Fort Augustus in the Highlands. We will review the decision in more detail and assess our options.”

Financial uncertainty stalls £800m Highland hydro power plant

SSEPlans to build an £800 million hydro power station in the Highlands have stalled over uncertainty over the financial viability of pumped hydro projects.

Energy firm SSE won approval for the Coire Glas plant at Loch Lochy, north of Fort William, in 2013.

The project could have more than doubled the capacity of pumped hydro in the UK, producing up to 600MW of electricity.

SSE said “a number of commercial and regulatory challenges” will have to be overcome before a final decision is made, which is unlikely to be this year.

The firm previously raised concerns about a lack of clarity over government policy regarding pumped hydro and said the market “needs a minimum level of confidence to invest”.

SNP energy spokesman Callum McCaig said pumped storage schemes like Coire Glas had “an important role to play in the energy mix, particularly with the increasing deployment of renewable technologies”.

He added: “In the four months since the European Union referendum we have not heard anything from the UK Government as to how they will address energy policy; it is clear the inaction from Westminster is putting investment decisions like SSE’s under question.

“The best solution for security of supply, cost to the consumer, and carbon reduction would be for the UK to stay part of the EU’s energy union, but with Theresa May’s government being deathly silent on the issue, it’s impossible to tell if this is even a priority for them.”

Pumped hydro storage schemes involve two linked reservoirs at different heights.

When demand for power is low, water is pumped from the lower loch to the upper loch and stored.

Later, the water is released and allowed to flow back downhill, turning turbines and generating power when demand is high.

Report outlines ‘key benefits’ of pumped storage hydro investment

The ScottishPower Cruachan Hydroelectric Power Station on Loch Awe, near Dalmally

The ScottishPower Cruachan Hydroelectric Power Station on Loch Awe, near Dalmally

Investing in pumped-storage hydroelectricity can have “key benefits” for the UK’s energy system, according to a new report.

The Benefits of Pumped Storage Hydro to the UK study sets out 20 key perks of expanding the technology in the UK.

Funded by the Scottish Government, SSE, and ScottishPower, the DNV GL study reveals 24GWh of pumped storage capacity currently contributes to the UK’s electricity system, split across four sites largely in Scotland. Planning permission is also in place for another 50GWh worth of projects.

Key benefits include alleviating network congestion costs by storing excess generation in constrained zones for later use, as well as avoiding waste of low carbon electricity during periods of low demand. In addition, pumped storage hydro is the most economical storage technology for the long discharge periods required to contribute to security of supply.

Mike Seaton, SSE’s director of development, said it is clear that pumped storage plays a “significant role” in making the UK’s electricity system more efficient, reliable and secure.

“At a stroke, SSE’s consented 30GWh Coire Glas project would more than double the total amount of current pumped storage capacity in the UK,” he said.

Hannah Smith, policy officer for Scottish Renewables, added: “It is important that government creates the right policy environment to encourage investment.

“We would like to see a more level playing field for pumped storage hydro which reflects the value it can bring to the electricity system.”

Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse has now called on the UK government to work towards removing investment barriers that prevent new pumped storage hydro projects from being built.

“This report outlines the huge opportunity around pumped storage hydro. This tried and tested technology can support peak demand and effectively store greater levels of electricity at times when renewable energy output is high but demand is low,” he said.

“This part of the hydropower industry needs a supportive policy and market framework – such as a ‘cap and floor’ mechanism, as is used for interconnectors – and I call upon the UK government to heed calls from the sector and work with the industry and Scottish Government to remove investment barriers that prevent new pumped storage hydro projects being built.”

Image courtesy of ScottishPower

Interserve signs £7.5m deal with SSE and SGN

Domestic-energy-use--fuel povertyInterserve has secured a £7.5 million contract to provide cleaning services for energy company SSE and gas distribution firm SGN.

The three-year account will see Interserve provide daily cleaning, window cleaning and periodic cleaning services to all of SSE and SGN’s 70 corporate offices located across the UK.

The facilities management group already provides asbestos removal services to around 90 industrial sites for both companies.

Under the contract, Interserve said it would roll out new management and timekeeping systems that will “deliver significant efficiencies and synergies” for both SSE and SGN. The firm will also transfer around 200 people to their team under the terms of the contract.

Jeff Flanagan, managing director of commercial at Interserve, said: “We look forward to starting a new partnership with SSE and SGN. Our experience of delivering consistent, cost-effective cleaning services for customers with large and diverse corporate estates makes us the perfect choice for this account, and we look forward to building on this relationship in the years to come.”

John Muir Trust abandons Highlands wind farm legal action

wild_land_stronelairg_area_listingConservation charity John Muir Trust said it will take no further legal action over a planned 67-turbine wind farm in the Highlands.

Last year the charity successfully blocked the Scottish Government’s decision to approve the Stronelairg development, near Fort Augustus, at a judicial review hearing, claiming the required planning procedures regarding environmental impacts and objections to the project had not been properly followed.

The charity also claimed the project would be a blight on a “precious area of wild Scotland” which is home to a large area of peatland.

However, SSE and the Scottish Government appealed the judicial review decision, and won their case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Now the Trust has abandoned its fight against the plans.

A John Muir spokesman said: “The decision to approve the scheme flew in the face of expert advice from the government’s own advisory body, Scottish Natural Heritage, which stated that the development would destroy the character of one of Scotland’s key areas of wild land.

“The application was also opposed by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and three out of four local councillors, while written objections from the public outnumbered letters of support by 15 to one.

“Yet there was no opportunity for thorough public scrutiny of the proposal: because there was no objection from the relevant Highland Council planning committee, there was no requirement for a Public Local Inquiry.

“We believe that decision was based on flawed advice from planning officials.”

They added: “Fighting this battle has consumed a significant amount of time and money [but] we have come to the conclusion that we have reached the end of the road with our legal action.”

Mountaineering Scotland – formerly known as the Mountaineering Council of Scotland – plans to donate £5000 to help the John Muir Trust cover its legal costs.

It will be responsible for paying part of SSE and the Scottish Government’s legal fees, although how much has not yet been decided.

Scottish Ministers win appeal over wind farm consent decision

SSE StronelairgScottish Ministers have successfully challenged a judge’s decision to reduce a planning consent granted for the development of a new wind farm near Fort Augustus.

Last year conservation charity John Muir Trust successfully blocked the Scottish Government’s decision to approve the development at a judicial review hearing, claiming the required planning procedures regarding environmental impacts and objections to the project had not been properly followed.

The charity also claimed the project would be a blight on a “precious area of wild Scotland” which is home to a large area of peatland.

However, SSE and the Scottish Government appealed the judicial review decision, and won their case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

In the published judgment, Lord Carloway, the lead judge in the case, said “careful consideration was given to the visual impact of the development and its effect on the wild land upon which it was to be built” in the original planning decision letter.

John Muir Trust expressed its disappointment with the Court’s decision, adding that it was now taking further legal advice and “considering options as to our next steps”.

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision,” said Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust. “We are confident that we did the right thing by challenging this decision – standing up against a scheme that could industrialise and decimate a precious area of wild Scotland.”

However, SSE said the Strongelairg was situated in a “natural upland bowl” and the wind farm would not be visible on key tourist routes and at nearby Loch Ness. It also claims the site is “not located on pristine peatland” but rather peatland which is “heavily degraded”.

Welcoming Friday’s ruling, SSE said in a statement: “Stronelairg is a carefully designed project with the carbon payback estimated to be around 16 months. It was strongly supported by many local stakeholders, was not opposed by the local community council and was supported by the Highland Council planning committee. The ruling today has brought good news to a project that would bring significant benefits to the local and wider economy.”

Scottish Government wind farm approval ‘defective’ judge rules

SSE StronelairgThe Scottish Government’s decision to approve a 67-turbine wind farm near Fort Augustus has been described by a judge in the Court of Session as “defective” following a judicial review.

Lord Jones said ministers made their decision on SSE’s Stronelairg project “in breach of environmental obligations”.

The John Muir Trust, a landscape charity, sought judicial review after the wind farm was granted planning consent last year, saying it would “destroy the character” of the land.

The government said it was considering the judgment and planned to appeal it.

Westwater Advocates’ Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt QC and Donald Cameron acted for the John Muir Trust.

Lord Jones reduced the decision consenting the wind farm, ruling that members of the public had been denied the opportunity to comment on revisals to the application suggested by The Highland Council for the proposed wind farm, and that ministers did not take into account Scottish Natural Heritage’s objection in principle to any wind farm development at Stronelairg.

In ruling on whether the Trust was entitled to challenge the consent granted by ministers and on whether the Trust could be considered disadvantaged by the decision, Lord Jones concluded it was taking the action for the public good, saying: “The interest of any non-governmental organisation, such as the trust, is deemed sufficient. The question, therefore, is not whether the trust was prejudiced, but whether members of the public were prejudiced.”

He also said: “If the ministers did take into consideration SNH’s objection in principle to any wind farm development at Stronelairg, they have given no reason for rejecting it, and the decision is defective on that account.”

government spokesperson said: “We have received the judgement of Lord Jones in relation to the petition lodged by the John Muir Trust for the judicial review of the Scottish ministers’ decision to grant consent to construct and operate the Stronelairg wind farm, Garrogie Estate, Fort Augustus.

“Scottish ministers are considering the terms of the judgement carefully with a view to appealing.”

spokesperson for SSE said: “We are disappointed with the result of the judicial review of the consent decision for Stronelairg wind farm.

“We will now review the judgement in detail and consider our options accordingly.”