Plans unveiled for new Highland centre of excellence in renewables technology

Opportunity Cromarty Firth has unveiled plans to open a global centre of excellence on a North Highland College UHI campus, aimed at ensuring Scotland becomes a world leader in future renewable energy technologies.

Plans unveiled for new Highland centre of excellence in renewables technology

The Power House will be housed at Tern House, in Alness Point Business Park, Easter Ross, and will bring together the foremost specialist groups in the country (and beyond).

Its aim is to develop innovative applied research and development in the fields of floating offshore wind and green hydrogen. It will also act as a specialist educational hub to provide field studies and modules on these technologies for school children, students and workers interested in the renewable energy sectors, throughout the Highlands and beyond.

Such educational provision will boost awareness and interest among the next generation on the future benefits and capabilities of this technology. It will also provide the opportunity for existing workers from other industries, such as oil and gas and nuclear sectors, to retrain and expand their capabilities.

Ultimately it will create a highly-skilled workforce of tomorrow in Scotland, from trainees and apprentices to fully-qualified technical engineers, able to capitalise on the significant opportunities in renewable projects that will be available in the Highland region over the coming decades.

The centre is backed by Opportunity Cromarty Firth, a collaborative partnership including the University of the Highlands and Islands, as well as other public and private sector organisations such as Port of Cromarty Firth, the Highland Council, HITRANS, and Skills Development Scotland. The partnership has started initial discussions with a wide range of universities and research organisations who wish to make use of the Power House to understand the types of research that would take place and the time scales involved.

Gary Campbell, University of the Highlands and Islands’ vice-principal for strategic developments, said: “The Cromarty Firth’s economy and community are in pole position to benefit from the growing revolution in renewable energy over the coming decades. The Power House is an exciting opportunity for the University of the Highlands and Islands to collaborate in research and knowledge exchange with industry and with other university partners at the cutting edge of this field.”

Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, speaking on behalf of Opportunity Cromarty Firth, said: “We are delighted that the University of the Highlands and Islands and North Highland College UHI have agreed to host the Power House at Tern House. This global centre of excellence is a hugely influential part of Opportunity Cromarty Firth’s plans and will provide a vital educational tool not only for the renewable experts of today to find innovative solutions, but also in developing the Scottish workforce of tomorrow.

“The Power House will play a vital role in ensuring that the highly-skilled jobs needed in the floating offshore wind and green hydrogen sectors go to Scottish workers, as well as linking up research and industry to develop innovative new technologies on Scottish sites.”

The Power House is one of five interlinked projects central to Opportunity Cromarty Firth’s commitment to ensuring the Cromarty Firth becomes a strategic national renewable energy hub, supporting the rapid expansion in renewable projects off Scotland’s shores, with offshore wind and floating offshore wind predicted to be valued at as much as £26 billion over the next 50 years.

The Cromarty Firth is uniquely positioned at the heart of the majority of these multi-billion pound offshore renewable energy projects. They will provide a sustainable pipeline of work for generations, through projects such as the creation of an advanced manufacturing plant at Nigg, serial manufacturing of floating structures at Invergordon and a state-of-the-art North of Scotland green hydrogen hub.

The latter will utilise renewable energy created from offshore wind to produce green hydrogen as a source of clean fuel for the region, other parts of the UK and Europe. Opportunity Cromarty

Firth will bid for Freeport status to ensure the region optimises all of these substantial projects and creates the maximum number of jobs and opportunities for local people and businesses.

Bob Buskie added: “The importance of these projects to the Cromarty Firth, and to Scotland’s economy more broadly, cannot be underestimated. They would bring skilled jobs and high-wage opportunities to the Highlands on a level not seen since the oil boom of the 1970s.”

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