Weekly update, 25th August – 15th September

Energy & Business services:

Tidal energy plans for the Pentland Firth have received a massive boost with news that financial closure (UK leads marine energy revolution as world’s largest tidal stream project agrees investment to begin construction in Scotland | MeyGen)  was reached for Phase 1 of the build out of Atlantis resources’ Meygen site in the Inner Sound of the Firth. Support for this has come from CNSRP partners HIE and Scottish Government (via the Renewable Energy Investment Fund) as well as The Crown Estate and the Department of Energy & Climate Change. Local (Harbour set to benefit from Pentland energy contract | John O’Groat Journal | News)  regional (BBC News – Tidal energy project to be constructed in the Pentland Firth) and national (http://www.torontotelegraph.com/index.php/sid/225005175) coverage of the news was extensive, confirming the significant interest in the project as an exemplar of how commercialisation of tidal stream technologies will take place. It is great to see JGC Engineering securing a multi-million pound contract as part of the programme, manufacturing and delivering foundations for the initial devices. This is a real boost to the likely economic impact associated with the roll-out of the Meygen project. The announcement has been followed by the more recent news that Atlantis has signed a Power Purchase Agreement for the Meygen project with SmartestEnergy, confirming revenue streams for the initial power generated from the devices. More on this at http://renews.biz/75752/meygen-grabs-smartestenergy-deal/

Also in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth, a study into the effects of tidal turbulence has been taking place. Funded by Scottish Government’s Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund, the project will utilise data from three acoustic Doppler current profilers deployed from a base at Gills harbour. More info at http://renews.biz/75021/tidal-experts-set-for-turbulent-time/

Work has also started on the Caithness end of the subsea electricity cable connecting Caithness and Moray, with initial drilling work having started at Noss Head near Wick. As previously reported, consent was given by Scottish Government to the project, and a detailed explanation of the work entailed in developing both the subsea link and HVDC converter stations at Spittal in Caithness and Blackhillock in Moray is available at http://www.ssepd.co.uk/CaithnessMoray/

We also welcomed two colleagues from the oil & gas team at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) to the area. The two, who are based in Aberdeen but cover the whole of the UK, were in Caithness to learn more about what the area has to offer. They saw operations at Kongsberg in Wick and JGC at Janetstown, as well as a tour of the Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre at North Highland College. It was encouraging to see how impressed they were with the facilities, the capabilities of the area’s companies and the real appetite shown for opportunities such as the emerging west of Shetland “Atlantic Frontier” for which Caithness (Scrabster Harbour and Wick John O’Groats Airport in particular) are strategically well placed. DECC colleagues have also been very helpful in discussions with Subsea UK as we plan a Caithness/ North Sutherland event in Aberdeen in October. The event, led by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise, will be part of the wider Subsea UK event “A National Strategy for Servicing the Atlantic Frontier”. Further info and booking details are at http://www.subseauk.com/5159/national-strategy-for-servicing-the-atlantic-frontier

It was good to visit Wick John O’Groats Airport last week and see the new hangar facility built to house helicopter traffic. Helicopter company NHV has been working to move Chevron personnel through Wick JOG airport to North Sea oil sites, and both companies have worked well with Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd to deliver the project.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

The North Highland Initiative (NHI) has welcomed a report on the potential of the food & drink sector in Scotland to create additional jobs. NHI Chairman David Whiteford believes that the north Highlands could support up to 2,000 additional jobs over the next five years. More at  https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands/342254/2000-jobs-boost-for-highlands/  The NHI has also supported a successful Wild North Festival during September, with events taking place across the area http://northhighlandsscotland.com/wildnorth/events/

CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise is working with Creative Scotland to commission new public artwork for John O’Groats. The £118,000 commission aims to produce public art that will further enhance the area for both locals and visitors. The deadline for expressions of interest is 30th September, and more information can be found at http://www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk/search/show/search_view.aspx?ID=SEP186475  

Enabling activities:

CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland is hosting a major event in Wick on Monday September 29th. The “UCAS Expanding Horizons” event will feature representatives from a number of UK universities and Higher Education establishments, as well as sectoral representation and local agency presence. The event, which is primarily aimed at senior school pupils from across the Highland area, is also open to the public. The event runs in Wick Assembly Rooms from 10am-3pm.

Caithness Chamber of Commerce is hosting a series of drop-in sessions next week for businesses. The sessions, on Wednesday 24th September, will be held at the Chamber’s base at Naver House, Thurso, and will include workplace health, customer service, business IT, social media, film & photography as well as advice from Business Gateway . More information at http://caithnesschamber.com/events/boost-your-business

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:

  • The Highland Council’s Corporate Performance Report 2013/14 was considered and approved by Highland Councillors at the September meeting of the full Council. In it progress against a number of targets in the Council Administration’s Programme “Working Together for the Highlands”. One of the measures relates directly to the ongoing support from the Council to CNSRP, and we were able to report that 141 full-time equivalent jobs in Caithness and north Sutherland were supported in 2013/14. More at http://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/3307/highland_council
  • A number of local companies (Caithness Chamber, JPL Shellfish, Reid’s of Caithness and JGC Engineering)  were in Edinburgh last week for the Scottish Business Honours, having been shortlisted for one of the various prize categories on offer.
  • Further to the coverage of Meygen’s project announcement, Scottish Provincial Press has given significant space to this in the latest edition of the popular Energy North supplement issued with the local press titles. More at http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=b65b2413-3eed-4dc0-903b-087c18aec3d7
  • Good to hear that Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso continues to make progress towards its first bottling of a new whisky, as its first batch of spirits is laid down to mature.