Doubt has been cast on delivering the UK’s largest offshore wind tower factory at Nigg in the Highlands next year after a key Spanish partner made its exit.
In December, Scottish-headquartered Global Energy Group announced it would create the £110 million facility alongside wind tower specialist Haizea, hailed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as a “significant investment”.
It has emerged that Spanish-headquartered Haizea Wind Group has exited the project, and Global Energy Group is now developing a “revised business case as primary operator of the site”.
The expectation is that the site will now be operational in 2024, rather than next year as previously planned.
It delivers a blow to Scottish supply chain hopes, already viewed as being underdeveloped to serve the huge ScotWind and INTOG contracts which await in the coming years.
In a statement online, GEG said this will create “a majority UK owned and operated manufacturing rolling facility”.
GEG chairman Roy MacGregor said: “We are fully committed to developing the offshore wind supply chain and establishing a world class manufacturing facility for rolled steel products at the Port of Nigg.
“This is an exciting opportunity to ensure supply chain opportunities are delivered locally to the benefit of the local economy and we believe that with the support of government and industry partners we have the right team and skills in place to develop the manufacturing site.”
The revamped strategy has been “warmly welcomed” by Scottish cabinet secretary for energy and net zero Michael Matheson, and by SSE Renewables who said it is “continuing to work with Global Energy Group to deliver a world leading tower factory” at Nigg.
It comes as mammoth factories for other offshore wind components – subsea cables at Blyth and turbine bases at Teesside – received approval and backing this week.
Scottish Conservative shadow energy secretary Liam Kerr said: “This announcement is obviously an unwelcome setback for the Nigg Offshore Wind project.
“However, it’s positive GEG remains committed to the Port of Nigg, which offers a significant opportunity for Scotland to be at the forefront of our offshore wind sector in the years ahead.
“It is vital we harness Scotland’s massive potential renewable energy resource to help the UK drive to achieve net zero.
“This is why the Scottish Government must now assist GEG with its revised plans to ensure the manufacturing base can become a reality as soon as possible.”
‘There’s a gap’
Concerns have also been raised in recent days by Sir Ian Wood that Scotland won’t get more than 20% of the early heavy fabrication work in the giant ScotWind offshore wind contracts due to capacity constraints and gaps in the market.
At the Energy Exports Conference on Tuesday, he said: “In the early days, a lot of the major fabrication infrastructure in the ScotWind round…I can’t believe we’ll be ready to do more than perhaps take 10, 15, 20% of the heavy stuff that’s going to be involved.
“But we absolutely need to speed up as quickly as we possibly can. There’s a gap.”
On the GEG plan, Michael Matheson said: “I warmly welcome this announcement by Global Energy Group to strengthen our domestic supply chain capacity, by developing manufacturing facilities at the Port of Nigg.
“Working alongside our Enterprise Agencies, the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring our domestic supply chain is given all available opportunities to capitalise on the growth of the offshore renewables sector, sustaining existing skilled jobs and delivering new ones.”