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Major step forward for Wick Harbour’s offshore wind plans

John O'Groat Journal

A bid by Wick Harbour to become a service base for offshore wind turbines has taken a step forward with a tie-up between the port authority and one of the developers.

Wick Harbour Authority (WHA) signed an agreement earlier this week with Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL), the company behind a 1.5 gigawatt scheme off the east of the Caithness coast.

The move was described as "tremendous news" for the port, for Wick and Caithness by WHA chairman Willie Watt.

He said it means the harbour is now among the ports which could support the Moray Firth project.

"This is a fairly significant step forward and is something more formal for us as we try and target operations and maintenance work at the harbour. We are working hard to deliver the solutions the developers need," Mr Watt said yesterday.

"After discussions over the last couple of years, we are delighted that MORL have seen the potential and the benefits of working from here. In terms of job numbers this is potentially a major boost for the local economy given the rundown of Dounreay and could provide huge opportunities for training providers and other support services.

"It could also offer a prosperous future for the harbour after a long period of decline due to the loss of our traditional fishing business.

"We look forward to developing our plans with MORL for a mutually beneficial development," Mr Watt told the John O'Groat Journal.

Dan Finch, project director for MORL, said: "This is the first in a series of such documents which will be signed with ports and harbours in the Moray Firth to enable us to consider the facilities and services, both currently available and planned, which can be used for the operation and maintenance of the Telford, Stevenson and MacColl offshore wind farms.

"The development of offshore wind not only brings the prospect of sustainable low-carbon electricity but also creates opportunities for the whole of the operational life of the infrastructure."

Mr Finch estimates that 330 jobs will be supported by the operations and maintenance activities over the lifetime of the wind farms.

He said: "The Moray Firth is able to offer a range of locations which could provide facilities for operations and maintenance activities." He added that the agreement allowed engagement between MORL and WHA to ensure consideration is given to the facilities and skills available, as well as to enable future planning.

MORL was granted consent by the Scottish Government earlier this year.

The development will cover an area of 295 square kilometres and will be around 13.5 miles off the east Caithness coast. There will be up to 62 turbines on each of the three sites with a maximum turbine blade-tip height of 669 feet.

MORL is a joint venture company owned 67 per cent by EDP Renewables (EDPR) and 33 per cent by Repsol Nuevas Energias UK Limited, with the aim of developing offshore wind generation in the outer Moray Firth.

Wick Harbour Authority is keen to expand into marine renewables in the Moray and Pentland Firths, oil and gas servicing and offshore decommissioning. Options are being looked at for offshore wind farm servicing within the existing harbour, and new breakwaters, deep water quays and extended laydown areas within Wick Bay.

Earlier this week, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited the Caithness port and heard about its plans to become a service base.

"She was very much taken with our can-do attitude," said Mr Watt. "The Deputy First Minister was with us for about 45 minutes. We met her in the harbour boardroom and outlined our plans to her and also took her on a short trip around the inner and outer harbours."