SSE invites community bids for £600,000 Beatrice wind farm fund

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Energy giant SSE is offering £600,000 to community projects in the Highlands and Moray in the latest distribution of cash from the £3million “partnership” fund associated with its development of the Beatrice offshore windfarm.

The Perth-based company announced yesterday it was inviting applications for the fund’s second tranche of grants, with a three-month period for organisations to apply.

Construction of the 84-turbine windfarm is under way in the outer Moray Firth, around eight miles off the Caithness coast.

Development of its onshore elements began in 2016.

Funding is being offered to non-profit making bodies, local groups and charities from east coast communities in Caithness and Sutherland, and the community council areas of Edderton, Tain, Inver and Tarbat.

In Moray, it is open to groups from coastal communities and the areas of Buckie, Keith, Lennox and Strathisla.

SSE said the money is aimed at projects that  have “the potential to deliver transformational social, economic and environmental changes in the local area while supporting long-term community development”.

The fund, which was launched last year and will operate over the next four years, will provide a total of £2million in Caithness and Sutherland and £1million in Moray.

Before its first allocation of cash last year, SSE set up an independent panel – chaired by Scottish Council for Development and Industry Highlands and islands director Fraser Grieve – to review applications and decide which projects should receive backing.

Yesterday Mr Grieve said: “We are delighted to announce that the next round of the Beatrice Partnership Fund in both Highland and Moray is now open for applications.

“The projects that the panel funded during the last rounds are thriving.

“The fund provides an excellent opportunity for communities to realise their ambitions and build stronger local economies.”

He added: “The purpose of the fund is to support activities that will enhance the area and it has the potential to provide real and significant benefits to the local community over the coming years.

“We are very much looking forward to receiving strong applications that will make a real difference for both areas.”

Among the organisations to benefit in the first round of funding was the Scottish Dolphin Centre in Spey Bay, Moray.

Centre manager Alison Rose said: “The team at the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre were absolutely delighted to be awarded £46,544 from the Beatrice Partnership Fund in
2017.

“These funds are enabling us to realise a long-term dream of extending our opening season into the winter months by installing a biomass boiler to heat the visitor centre.

“This will be a real step change for the dolphin centre, enabling tourists, the local community and schools to use our facilities all year.”

The 588megawatt Beatrice windfarm is expected to generate its first electricity this summer and become operational next year.

Offshore construction for the £2.6billion development began a year ago.

During the first 12 months all the offshore pile clusters for the turbines and transformer modules were installed, along with more than 37 miles of subsea cabling.

Jacket substructures,  which will support the turbines, are continuing to arrive at Invergordon to be taken to the site for installation.

Preparations are also under way at Nigg Energy Park, in Easter Ross, which will serve as a marshalling and construction hub for the next phase of the
project.

At Wick, historic harbour-side buildings originally developed by renowned Scottish engineer Thomas Telford are being renovated to house the windfarm’s long-term operations and maintenance base.

Work is also being carried out to upgrade a disused part of the Caithness town’s harbour for use by crew transfer vessels.

A new electricity substation has been built at Blackhillock, near Keith, in Moray.

Earlier this year SSE said Beatrice was on course to generate its first electricity in July.

The deadline for funding applications is noon on Thursday, July 5, with details available online.

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