£2bn off-plan Scottish offshore wind farm project could create new Scots energy jobs at BiFab yard, says Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, on the picket line with Bi-Fab workers in Fife over Beatrice wind farm wages dispute in Nov 2017.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, on the picket line with Bi-Fab workers in Fife over Beatrice wind farm wages dispute in Nov 2017.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hopes that the £500 million take-over of an ‘off-plan’ Scottish offshore wind farm project will generate new manufacturing orders for the Fife-based BiFab engineering services contractor.

The mostly-nuclear powered state-owned French utility giant EDF has bought the Neart na Gaoithe  – which means “strength of the wind” in Gaelic – wind farm (for which the Scot-Govt has already given planning permission) from Ireland’s Mainstream Renewables.

The project, which will cost EDF a further £1.8 billion to complete, will generate 450 megawatts of energy, which is enough to supply electricity to 375,000 homes, and help the UK meets its emissions reduction targets.

Mainstream – the Dublin-based energy company that developed the project – called it a “vital infrastructure project for Scotland” when the deal was announced.

The Neart na Gaoithe project was delayed by several years because of a legal challenge concerning its impact on seabirds, but ultimately gained approval and won a  Brit-Govt subsidy-contract.

In reply to questions in the Holyrood parliament by Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald, Sturgeon said: “We welcome the purchase of the Neart na Gaoithe project by EDF Energy Renewables.

“Let me give some context to the matter. In August 2017, the Fraser of Allander institute estimated that the project would contribute 0.6% of gross domestic product – about £827 million – to the Scottish economy over its lifetime.

“The institute also predicted that the project would create thousands of jobs during the construction phase and more than 230 operations and maintenance jobs over the 25-year lifetime of the wind farm.”

She added that she had met EDF chief executive officers last week and that a further meeting will shortly take place with Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse to see how the Scottish supply chain will benefit.

Macdonald replied: “Does the First Minister also agree support for training will be vital if workers such as those in BiFab are to take full advantage of such opportunities?

“If so, what training support will her government’s agencies provide to ensure a future for the yards in Methil and Stornoway as well as the yard in Burntisland?”

Sturgeon said she hoped BifFab would win contracts from Neart na Gaoithe and added: “When the acquisition by <Canada’s> DF Barnes was announced, it was made very clear that it was not a magic solution and that hard times still lay ahead. The yard has to win contracts.

“However, the acquisition means BiFab has not closed, and we now need to support it to win contracts from projects such as Neart na Gaoithe to ensure that it has the bright future that all of us want to see.”

15 May 2018

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