Weekly Update, 14th November 2011

Energy:

Today’s (Friday’s) Press & Journal carries coverage of an agreement signed between North Highland College and onshore windfarm developer Whirlwind Renewables. The firm is applying for an second phase of the Wathegar windfarm just outside Wick, and if successful the deal would see between £30,000-£50,000 per year over a potential 30 year period used for renewables-related training at the College.

 

Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL), the developers of an offshore wind site in the outer Moray Firth, will be holding public information days in Wick, Helmsdale and Inverness next week to update on their plans before they submit application for consent to Scottish Government. The zone covered by the Crown Estate’s agreement with MORL has been divided by the company into two “zones” – eastern and western. The site could generate approximately 1,100 MW (equivalent to enough power for approx 780,000 homes). It is immediately adjacent to the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) site, which is approx 13.5km from the Caithness coast. BOWL  held similar information days in Caithness last week. As previously mentioned, there is considerable interest in Wick being a key base for the operation and maintenance of these sites. The events will be held at

  • Mackay’s Hotel, Wick (Wednesday 23rd November 12pm-8pm);
  • Helmsdale Community Centre (Thursday 24th November 12pm-8pm) and
  • Eastgate Centre, Inverness (Friday 25th 9am-5.30pm).

 

The Crown Estate has announced an event in Thurso later this month aimed at providing an update on progress with marine energy in the Pentland Firth strategic area. The event will begin at the Weigh Inn Hotel on Monday 28th November at 5.45pm with a light buffet, followed by updates from key speakers at 6.15pm. The event is expected to finish by 8.30pm.

 

Meygen, the leaseholders of the Inner Sound tidal site in the Pentland Firth, will be holding two public information days next month to update on their progress with the draft Environment Statement to be submitted to Highland Council and Scottish Government. There will be visual displays, and Meygen staff will be on hand to answer questions. The events will be in the Mey Village Hall on Tuesday 6th December (9am-8pm) and Wednesday 7th December (9am-6.30pm)

 

The Shetland Times covers this week’s “Dynamic Shetland” event, where National Grid’s Martin Moran talked of the increasing confidence that large renewables schemes will go ahead, enabling key grid infrastructure works such as the subsea hub in the Moray Firth, connecting Shetland, Orkney, Pentland Firth and Moray Firth renewables projects. http://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2011/11/16/change-of-plan-makes-windfarm-grid-connection-much-cheaper Thursday’s Press & Journal covers the same discussion, adding that the subsea hub is currently planned for construction by 2016.

 

Next week sees a further local consultation event on north of Scotland Grid infrastructure, as Scottish & Southern Energy’s Power Distribution company holds an event focused on the proposed new sub-sea Orkney-Caithness power transmission cable, which it is proposed would make landfall on the Caithness coastline around the Forss/ Dounreay area. The event will be held at the Fishermen’s Mission, Scrabster on Tuesday 22nd from 2.00-6.30pm and further information on the project is available at www.sse.com/orkneycaithness

 

Tourism:

Following last week’s tourism workshop in Wick, and this week’s sessions around the area on the “Ambitious for Tourism – Caithness & North Sutherland” plan, further coverage on primetime television of why the area is a special place to visit, when Ray Mears’ “Wild Britain” visits the Flow Country around Forsinard in the company of RSPB’s Norrie Russell. The Flow Country (a candidate World Heritage Site) is described as “one of Scotland’s two natural heritage assets that are not bettered anywhere else in the world”. The programme airs next Friday night (25th) at 8pm on STV. http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/Flow-Country-on-TV-next-week-14112011.htm

 

Enabling Activities:

Caithness Chamber of Commerce hosted a business breakfast in Caithness Horizons this week, at which HIE’s Chairman Willy Roe and Chief Executive Alex Paterson were able to meet around 50 local business representatives together with fellow HIE Board members Jim Royan, Craig Spence and Professor Mary Bownes.  Both Willy Roe and Alex Paterson in their welcoming remarks highlighted the range of activities being taken forward in the area, and re-emphasised HIE’s commitment to support businesses and social enterprises in achieving growth whilst acknowledging the difficult wider economic climate.

 

The North Highland Regeneration Fund’s Annual General Meeting took place today (Friday) in Thurso. The Fund, managed by the NHRF company chaired by John Thurso MP,  was established with £1.5M from the NDA, but through management of repayments a total of over £1.7M has been invested in local businesses. Over the fund’s period of operation successful loan applicants have committed to create or retain 246 FTE jobs, a significant proportion of which are in the key priority sectors of energy or business services. This year the Fund has provided loan funding to new and existing businesses in the energy, business services, food & drink and manufacturing sectors.

 

Communications:
As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:

  • Following the recent announcement on the future of the Vulcan facility, Caithness Courier covers positive comments from Rolls Royce’s John Hook and John Thurso MP, re-emphasising Rolls Royce’s future aspirations for its business in Caithness. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Rolls-Royce-offers-jobs-pledge-to-Far-North-16112011.htm
  • Visitscotland Chairman Dr Mike Cantlay’s visit to the area last week is the subject of a piece in which he suggests that to realise the benefits from its tourism potential the area has to be “strong about what it has to offer”. Dr Cantlay visited John O’ Groats, where CNSRP partners HIE and Highland Council are working with Heritage GB and Natural Retreats, as well as other facilities such as Old Pulteney Distillery. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Tourist-chief-hails-Groats-revamp-15112011.htm
  • Press & Journal picks up on the story (covered in last week’s local press) of the launch later this month of Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s LEADER/ NDA funded town centre Loyalty Card scheme for Wick and Thurso (not online)