EXCLUSIVE: New 178MW wind farm would help generate 2,000 Highlands manufacturing and automotive jobs at UK’s only aluminium smelter

VB Garg (right) chief executive of Liberty Rolling Mills hosts Jeremy Corbyn at Clydebridge Steelworks, Cambuslang, near Glasgow.
V.B. Garg (right) chief executive, Liberty Rolling Mills, briefs Jeremy Corbyn at Clydebridge Steelworks, Cambuslang, near Glasgow.

EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News

A global metals and engineering conglomerate is planning to build a 54-turbine wind farm to generate additional electricity for its aluminium smelter in the Highlands – the last such plant still operating in the UK.

If approved, the Simec Energy plan is expected to generate up to 178MW of renewable energy from the proposed wind farm near Glenshero, near Laggan, much of which will be used by the GFG Alliance’s aluminium smelter at Fort William.

Steel for the wind turbine towers may be manufactured in Scotland by Liberty House Group – a sister company to Simec Energy in the GFG Alliance – which last year bought the moth-balled Dalzell steel plant in Motherwell and the Clydebridge works in Cambuslang. 

Last month, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, MP, visited the Clydebridge steel works. Opened in 1887, the Clydebridge plant built its reputation as supplier of steel for legendary ocean liners, including the Mauritania, the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth.

The Highland smelting facilities are powered by two neighbouring hydro-electric stations and a complex of on-site bio-diesel units, owned and managed by Simec Energy. The GFG is also planning to enhance the existing hydro station at nearby Kinlochleven.

SIMEC will operate the hydro plants within its growing UK portfolio of renewable power assets.  A key customer for Simec Lochaber Hydro will be the smelter, which is an intensive user of electricity to process alumina into aluminium

This combination of renewable energy sources makes the site one of the greenest metal production plants in the country.

Liberty is currently investing £120 million to upgrade the smelter and to expand on-site metal manufacturing and downstream engineering.

The company said this would create up to 2,000 direct and indirect supply-chain jobs in the heart of the Highlands – adding  around £1 billion to the local economy over the next decade.

The group is already working on the creation of an adjacent plant to manufacture alloy wheels and a range of other components for the UK and European automotive industry.

The Scottish Government is supporting the GFG Alliance’s acquisition and its investment programme by guaranteeing the power purchases of the aluminium smelter for the next 25 years. 

Jay Hambro, Chief Investment Officer of GFG Alliance and Chief Executive of Simec Energy, said: “I am delighted that SIMEC’s portfolio of renewable energy assets continues to expand with a determined and focused investment strategy.  These hydro-power stations have enough capacity to power around 83,000 homes.

“Currently, Lochaber provides the power required to produce 47,000 tonnes of aluminium.  We have identified investment programmes to significantly increase power generation from the existing assets and are studying how to create further capacity locally. 

“Simec prides itself on providing innovative renewable and cost-effective power solutions for Liberty’s industrial activities

“Plus, the wind farm would be built in an environment of zero subsidies, using steel rolled and finished in Scotland and then generate clean energy to support the Scottish metals industry.

“It is also an exciting opportunity for us to work with the local community and encourage their investment alongside our own. This is truly a win-win project for all parties.”

The prospect of price-competitive automotive parts just further up the road could also be a positive factor in persuading INEOS to locate its planned new £100 million ‘Land Rover-style’ car factory on land aplenty it owns at its Grangemouth petro-chemical refinery.

But a major hurdle to INEOS choosing Scotland for its auto-manufacturing plant is the moratorium the Scot-Govt imposed on onshore oil and gas exploration – INEOS holds several exploration licences across the Central Belt from the Brit-Govt, which is in favour of using hydraulic fracturing techniques to recover shale gas reserves.

.7 Sept 2017

See also:

Redundant Scots oil and gas workers tell Sturgeon to ‘get fracking’ over INEOS shale gas and get new 4×4 car manufacturing plant based in Scotland


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