An initiative aimed at helping create a renewable energy jobs boom in the Highlands has been launched, following the appointment of its first manager.
The Power House was set up by the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) group, with the ambition of establishing a “global centre of excellence” to secure a leading role for the area in the development of floating wind and green hydrogen technology.
Petroleum and renewable energy sources engineer, Mina Hanna, has been appointed manager of the centre, in Easter Ross.
As well as its focus on applied research and development, the facility, at North Highland College UHI’s Tern House campus, at Alness Business Park, will offer educational opportunities for students, workers and school children.
It will also provide re-training for people who have worked in other energy sectors, such as oil and gas and nuclear.
Mr Hanna is gathering input from academia and industry to shape the centre’s strategy, while also working to secure further funding for the initiative. He has plans to launch a number of community engagement activities.
Originally from Egypt, Mr Hanna graduated with a BSc in petroleum and energy sources engineering from the American University in Cairo and last year completed a masters degree in petroleum engineering at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University (RGU).
He has worked as an alternative fuels operations engineer for LafargeHolcim and with the Industrial Modernisation Centre, in Egypt.
Mr Hanna said: “I have experience in both alternative fuels and renewable energy and the oil and gas side. But, to be honest, I felt more comfortable in renewables and being able to contribute to the production and use of renewable energy.
“Being able to help reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency is, I think, everyone’s role, because global warming is real.”
He added: “We hope that The Power House will become a global centre of excellence and we are focusing on floating offshore wind and green hydrogen technology because that is where we think the region has a real unique selling point.
“The idea is to get industry involved up front, so what we want to do is to identify their priorities for accelerating those two sectors, then the strategy for The Power House will flow from that.”
Mr Hanna’s role is being funded for the next six months by the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), with money its Manufacturing Skills Academy received from the Scottish Government’s £25 million Transition Training Fund.
His was the first appointment in a scheme run by NMIS to recruit 30 graduates who had been unable to find work because of the Covid pandemic.
Stewart McKinlay, head of the skills programme at NMIS, said: “We are a national asset and what we wanted to do was make sure that the programme was truly national right across the length and breadth of Scotland.
“We were delighted after conversations with Opportunity Cromarty Firth to see the potential match.”
NMS, which hopes to run another graduate recruitment scheme, also offers free training for people who are unemployed, or facing redundancy.
Launched last year, Opportunity Cromarty Firth’s membership is made up of around a dozen public and private sector organisations, including the Port of Cromarty Firth (PCF), Global Energy Group (GEG), Highland Council, the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), Inverness Harbour Trust, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Semco Maritime.