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Sturgeon hails ‘crucial’ role of offshore wind as NnG project passes ‘milestone’

Nicola Sturgeon stressed the ‘crucial’ role of offshore wind power in Scotland’s future (Ben Birchall/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon stressed the ‘crucial’ role of offshore wind power in Scotland’s future (Ben Birchall/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has highlighted the “crucial” role that offshore wind will play in Scotland’s future – at the same time as a major new green power development passed a “significant milestone”.

The operations and maintenance base for the new £2 billion Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm was opened in Eyemouth, Berwickshire.

It will see turbines located about 9.6 miles (15.5km) off the Fife coast, and when up and running the project could generate 450 megawatts (MW) of electricity – enough to power around 375,000 homes.

The operations and maintenance base was opened by Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson on Wednesday morning – while the First Minister was speaking at the Scottish Renewables’ offshore wind conference in Glasgow.

There, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government’s recently published draft energy strategy “reflects our understanding and belief that offshore wind will be essential not only in enabling us to achieve our net-zero ambitions, but also crucial to Scotland’s long-term economic prospects and prosperity”.

She told the conference: “Your industry, and the issues you’re focusing on, could not be more important to our country’s future.

“For Scotland, offshore wind and the green hydrogen industry that you can then help to create offers huge industrial and economic opportunities.”

Ms Sturgeon said the “need to accelerate our energy transition has never been more urgent”, adding that Scottish ministers would “continue to do all that we can” to support the offshore wind sector.

“The prize – if we get this right – is a greener, fairer, more resilient energy system,” she stated.

Clare Mack, chief executive of the industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “It is clear that 2023 is going to be another huge year for offshore wind in Scotland.”

Speaking in Eyemouth, Mr Matheson stressed the Scottish Government’s “vision to ramp up renewables production and secure a bright future for our energy sector”.

He added: “As well as standing ready to provide state-of-the-art facilities for the Neart na Gaoithe project, this new operations and maintenance base in Eyemouth is a prime example of how new offshore installations can create and sustain good green jobs, and also bring wider, long-lasting benefits to the local community, businesses and economy.”

The base will create up to 50 jobs in the Eyemouth area for the 25-year lifespan of the wind farm, which is owned by energy companies ESB and EDF Renewables UK.

Matthieu Hue, chief executive officer of EDF Renewables UK, hailed the new operations and maintenance base as a “great example of our commitment to investing in Scotland”, saying Scottish firms had been used in its construction, with “high-quality jobs and strong economic benefits for the 25-year lifespan of the wind farm”.

He added: “We already have 10 onshore wind farms in Scotland and our large development pipeline will allow us to expand our contribution to delivering more low carbon and affordable renewables capacity.”

John O’Connor, the senior manager responsible for ESB’s generation projects, said: “The Neart na Gaoithe project is an important part of ESB’s ambition and commitment to building a low carbon generation portfolio of scale.

“The opening of the operations and maintenance (O&M) base on site is a significant milestone in this project as we work together to bring clean renewable power to the people of Scotland and help the country achieve its climate targets.”

Matthias Haag, NnG project director, said: “I’m immensely proud of the facility that we’ve built here, which is one of the most advanced O&M bases of any wind farm in the world.

“It will ensure not only that the NnG wind farm runs efficiently but that we put the safety and welfare of our people front and centre as they look after the operations of the NNG wind farm.”