The First Minister visited the Nigg Energy Park in the constituency recently and saw the turbines that are bound for the world’s first large scale tidal wind farm. This will also be sited in the Far North; the MeyGen project, a forerunner in marine renewables, will change the way they are viewed around the world. Generating reliable, sustainable and clean energy for the consumer it will also add nearly £300 million to Scotland’s economy as well as providing employment, training opportunities and research developments which will be of global benefit. Work will begin on the placing of the first giant underwater turbines within the next week or so and at the end of construction, it is anticipated that over 250 turbines would supply enough energy that all the households within the Highlands and Islands could be powered from that one development alone.
A few miles south from the MeyGen project, work will also begin on the £2.5 billion SSE Beatrice Offshore Windfarm. Over 80 turbines are due to be located here to replace the early prototypes currently in situ. An additional £10 million is being invested into Wick itself with this project as an Operations and Maintenance base is constructed through the regeneration and redevelopment of the historic fishing area of Lower Pulteney as the original Telford buildings are sympathetically restored in an ingenious design. I have an added interest in this farm as my house looks directly on to the current Beatrice rigs and windmills and I find it fascinating that I could soon look out of my window and know that what I see could potentially power from Moray down to Fife; within the next few years, half of Scotland could be completely fuelled by these two developments alone that not only protect the environment for future generations but are also producing a fuel supply that will never run out.
Funding from the Scottish Government remains committed as it recognises the benefits and opportunities that research, development and construction of renewable energy projects offer future generations as well as protecting the environment for them as we move from traditional and ageing energy sources. The Westminster Government however seems to be ever backward looking as it withdraws investment and curtails funding for some renewable sectors whilst investing heavily in new nuclear power stations. Further European investment is also uncertain post Brexit – it is not only the potential loss of finance but the loss of willing collaboration with other countries that is of concern. Once again, Scotland seems at odds with her governing body and has little recourse. It is time again our coastline up here is put to use powering the country although this time because of wind and wave rather than because of its remoteness.
As I stood at the back door on Saturday to watch a military plane taking off filled with uranium from Dounreay bound for America, the sight of material from yesterday’s energy source departing our shores directly above tomorrow’s emerging future as it passed over the Beatrice field was poignant yet propitious; when the last flight leaves Caithness 700kg lighter in uranium in 18 months time, Beatrice and MeyGen will be up and running powering a progressive and bright Scotland safely into the future.