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North to become a global centre of excellence for green energy

By Calum MacLeod

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The Power House in Alness will capitalise on the region's established renewables energy sector to become an internationally recognised centre of excellence.
The Power House in Alness will capitalise on the region's established renewables energy sector to become an internationally recognised centre of excellence.

The Highlands will become home to a globally recognised centre of excellence in renewable energy, under plans announced by Opportunity Cromarty Firth.

The Power House will be housed at Tern House, a North Highland College UHI campus,in Alness Point Business Park, and will bring together specialist groups from Scotland and beyond with the aim of ensuring the country becomes a world leader in future renewable energy technologies.

Its aim is to develop innovative applied research and development for the floating offshore wind and green hydrogen sectors.

It will also act as a specialist educational hub, providing field studies and modules for school children, students and workers interested in the renewable energy sectors, throughout the Highlands and beyond with an aim of boosting awareness and interest in these new technologies in a new generation. It will also provide the opportunity for existing workers from other industries, such as the oil and gas and nuclear sectors, to retrain and expand their capabilities.

The intention is to create a highly-skilled workforce, able to capitalise on the opportunities renewable projects will bring to 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 (UHI), as well as other public and private sector organisations such as Port of Cromarty Firth, 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 gain an understanding of the types of research that would take place and the time scales involved.

Gary Campbell, (UHI) 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 andNorth 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, which is predicted to be valued at as much as £26 billion over the next 50 years.

The Cromarty Firth is well positioned to service the majority of these multi-billion pound offshore renewable energy projects, which could 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 also bid for freeport status to ensure the region optimises 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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