Weekly update, 4th May

Energy & Business Services

The MeyGen tidal project in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth continues to make progress. In late March Atlantis Resources Ltd announced that Lockheed Martin had won a contract to build an Atlantis AR1500 turbine for the 6MW project. The US company will deliver the machinewhich has a rotor diameter of 18 metres, in 2016. The MeyGen first phase also features three Andritz Hydro Hammerfest machines. Lockheed’s contract scope includes manufacturing of the steel turbine housing, the assembly of all the turbine modules, including the gearbox and generator, and the systems integration and quality assurance of the overall turbine delivery programme. The two companies are working with the supply chain in Scotland to maximise local content. The yaw drive and variable pitch system for the turbine are being developed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin as part of its commitment under a technology partnership teaming agreement with Atlantis in 2013. It will also work with Finnish company The Switch to build an integrated generator for the AR1500. Work also started in late March on the directional drilling to create the bores for cables that will connect the first phase of turbines to the onshore station at Ness of Quoys. A BBC TV crew visited the MeyGen site last month to film as part of an episode of “Landward” which was screened last week (see communication below). In late April Atlantis Resources also announced that it had reached agreement to acquire Marine Current Turbines (MCT) from Siemens. MCT’s existing portfolio includes a seabed lease at Brough Ness which is on the opposite side of the Pentland Firth to its current Inner Sound site. A general update newsletter is available on the MeyGen website at www.meygen.com

As the revised decommissioning programme for Dounreay continues to progress DSRL is running a recruitment campaign for a range of posts required to support delivery of the programme. The company will be holding two recruitment fairs this month – in the Park Hotel, Thurso on Wednesday 13th May from 2-8pm and at the Hilton Doubletree, Beach Boulevard, Aberdeen on Thursday 14th May from 2-8pm and again on Friday 15th May from 10am-2pm. http://www.jobsinscotland.com/job/951230362/engineers-commissioning-design-multi-discipline-/ and http://jobs.energyvoice.com/job/951230343/project-managers/

Energy-related traffic at Wick John O’Groats Airport continues to feature strongly. The airport continues to be used to move oil & gas personnel to offshore assets via helicopter, and the latest news from Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd indicates that Wick JOG airport experienced a growth of 64% in passenger numbers in January-March 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

The All-Energy Exhibition & Conference was held in Glasgow this week. Businesses from this area were represented in the Highlands and Islands Pavilion, with Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s “Invest Caithness” taking space once again with Scrabster Harbour on the Highland Council stand. It was good to have Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP visit the stand to hear about current activities.

Together with colleagues from HIE and Scottish Development InternationaI I took part in a productive discussion with Aon Hewitt, who own and operate the pensions administration business located at the Forss Business & Technology Park.

Tourism, Food & Drink

Early April saw the first of the area’s Festivals take place. On Easter weekend Caithness hosted both the Scottish Surfing Championships at Thurso East and the Northern Nashville Caithness Country Music Festival. The Surfing event attracted 50 competitors, its biggest number for many years, and benefited from both good overhead viewing weather and strong surfing conditions. The Northern Nashville event, which was supported by CNSRP partner the Highland Council, attracted over 1,000 paying customers, with an estimated 75% from outside the area. Also on the theme of marine activity tourism area’s natural environment continues to draw attention. Last month saw an excellent blog highlighting the area’s continuing attraction for sea kayakers, and an excellent film of the area was also highlighted. The film was produced two years ago for the BBC TV Adventure Show, and follows a route up the coast of the Moray Firth to Caithness. http://www.seakayakpodcasts.com/ The are also received national coverage last week on BBC 1’s “Landward” programme, which focused on sites in Caithness, including the MeyGen tidal site, Stroma and Reid’s of Caithness.

In late April Venture North successfully ran a social media workshop for a number of tourism, food & drink businesses. The one day event brought together presentations from Rene Looper of Tuminds (a Highland-based social media company), food writer/ blogger Claire Jessiman (@FoodieQuine), and well-known Times/ Sunday Times travel writer Steve Keenan. To gain a flavour of this online event and see some of the range of area companies with an online business presence see https://twitter.com/hashtag/venturenorthbyte?src=hash

Enabling activities:

Wick High School’s Young Enterprise teams have performed very well in competitions in recent years, and this year’s team – Prosperity – has been no exception. The team, which set up a business producing emergency chargers for mobile devices, came second in the Young Enterprise Scotland competition for Highland and Moray last month. They were supported by Trudy Morris of Caithness Chamber, Ken Nicol of DSRL and Ali Murray of Atlantic Marketing.

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 CNSRP Advisory and Executive Boards both met in late March and April respectively. This was the first opportunity for the Board members to see progress reports from the owners of the various major projects on the Partnership Programme. Members were happy with the level of information they received, and welcomed in particular the good progress being made in supporting job opportunities. During 2014/15 I was able to report that around 40 businesses had committed to 176 full-time equivalent jobs in the area. 144 were new FTE jobs and 32 were retained FTE jobs, and 60% of the total came from the energy sector.
  • The recent Advisory Board meeting also saw representation from NHS Highland, who have joined for the first time. NHS Highland has just published a leaflet answering a number of “frequently asked questions” about future activities at Caithness General Hospital http://www.nhshighland.scot.nhs.uk/News/Documents/Caithness%20General%20QandA%20newsletter.pdf
  • “Landward” programme was in Caithness last month to film several pieces on the area, including a visit to the MeyGen site near Gills, a flagstone quarry, the island of Stroma and Duncansby Head. The episode was broadcast on Friday 1st May, and will be available on BBC iPlayer until the end of May http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05sdmh8/landward-20152016-episode-4 BBC1’s