City leaders want to capitalise on an employment boom in renewable energy by restarting a stalled project promising 800 jobs.
Spanish firm Gamesa, which manufactures offshore wind turbines, announced plans in 2012 for a £125 million production base in Leith, but it was put on ice soon afterwards when the UK Government announced a review of energy markets.
Now that the government has signalled a switch in subsidies from onshore to offshore developments, city economy leader Frank Ross, below, hopes to start talks with Gamesa about reviving the scheme.
The move comes as latest figures show there are now 2000 people in Edinburgh and the Lothians employed in renewable energy – a five per cent increase in a year.
Scottish Renewables, which represents more than 330 organisations working in the industry, cited Pelamis and Limpet Technology, both based in Leith, and FoundOcean in Livingston, as examples of the growing and varied sector in the area.
Joss Blamire, policy manager for Scottish Renewables, said: “The renewables industry has seen steady growth in the number of people being employed despite an uncertain year. The breadth of job opportunities for project managers, ecologists and engineers has led to a wide range of people seeing renewable energy as a sector where they can use their skills and training.”
Councillor Ross said uncertainty created by the UK Government’s energy review put the project on hold. However, at the end of last year, the government announced subsidies for offshore wind projects were to be increased and onshore subsidies reduced.
Cllr Ross said: “I’m hopeful that now they have switched the emphasis and subsidy, that will allow us to reopen discussion with Gamesa again.
“They wanted clarity from the UK Government. Unfortunately, that has taken almost two years, but we believe the review has now given them the clarity they were looking for.
“We hope to get discussions in the next month or two. Hopefully their investment plans are still in line with what we were expecting.”
He said with the success of the other firms in Leith, there was a good opportunity to establish a renewable hub in the port.
Scottish Labour finance spokesman Iain Gray MSP welcomed the latest research.
“This report shows once again that the renewables sector is a real opportunity for economic growth in Scotland,” he said.
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said it was heartening to see the renewable industry continuing to grow.
She said: “We’re seeing the creation of highly-skilled, secure jobs and we must encourage more of this type of employment.”
True story of some snake expectations
PELAMIS Wave Power, established in 1998 and based at Leith docks, is one of the world’s leading marine renewables companies.
It developed the ‘sea snake’ device which generates electricity from the movement of the waves.
The company was originally known as Ocean Power Delivery, but changed its name in 2007 to Pelamis – named after Pelamis Platurus, a species of sea snake.
After successful testing of the prototype, the company secured an order in 2008 from Portuguese electricity utility firm Enersis to build the world’s first wave farm off the north-west coast of Portugal at Aguçadoura. Now it is testing a P2 Pelamis machine at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney.
ScottishPower Renewables and E.ON have put in place a joint working agreement to maximise the learning from operating and maintaining the machines as a wave farm.
The P2 comprises five connected sections which flex and bend in the waves, movements harnessed by hydraulic rams which in turn drive electrical generators.
STICK TO IT
FOUNDOCEAN is a subsea and offshore cementing specialist, based in Livingston and working for energy construction industries.
It is the world’s largest dedicated offshore construction grouting company, with nearly 50 years’ experience of subsea grouting for oil and gas and offshore wind installers.
FoundOcean has boosted staff numbers from 39 to 134 since January 2010 after developing an alternative cement for offshore installations, driving the business towards a 38 per cent market share in 36 months.
On the ladder to success
LIMPET Technology, founded in Edinburgh in 2009, has designed a system which holds workers as they climb, work on, and descend from wind turbine towers. It allows workers to operate safely hundreds of feet above the ground on challenging wind farm sites across the world. The company has increased its staff numbers year on year and now employs 15 people. Chief executive Stephen Cornwallis explained: “We retain research and development and assembly capability at our facility in Leith and expect to bring on up to four new staff in the year ahead to meet demand.”