Exciting times for renewables sector

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks in the renewables sector in Scotland with some big announcements making the headlines, with the promise of lots more to come for this industry.
Firstly we saw the First Minister launch the new Nigg Skills Academy in Ross-shire.  This is a brilliant new development for the energy sector in the Highlands and Islands and has been broadly welcomed by the industry as a whole.  With funding support from Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council and HIE totalling £915,000, the Academy hopes to have 290 Modern Apprentices through its doors in the first year of operation.  These apprentices are going to be very valuable to the industry in the coming years, with over 3,000 people expected to have completed training by 2015.
The Skills Academy has seen over 800 applications already, for an initial intake of 23 apprentices.  This is testament to how appealing the sector is to people looking for new and exciting opportunities, and with the industry growing so rapidly, it’s great to see this level of appetite.
Since Global Energy Group took over the Nigg Yard in 2011, they have identified a demand for up to 2,000 people over the next few years to help them to deliver contracts in the oil and gas and renewable energy sectors.  The yard has already taken on a new lease of life, with the dry dock back in action and home for the next 3 months to Transocean’s Galaxy 1 rig.  The major refit will employ more than 250 people and is a big boost to the area, as had it not been for the dry dock, the work would have ended up elsewhere.
On the same day as the Nigg Skills Academy was unveiled, the Central Belt had a huge boost with the announcement by Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa that they had picked Leith over Hartlepool as the location for their major offshore manufacturing base.  This is excellent news for the Scottish offshore wind sector, and could see around 800 jobs created alongside an investment of about €150million.  A lot of hard work and effort has gone in to securing Gamesa’s investment for Scotland, and manufacturing has long been seen as the big prize, so to have a first announcement on this scale is a huge achievement.  This follows on from Gamesa’s investment in a new R&D facility at Strathclyde, already employing over 60 engineers and forecast to grow to 180 people.
Finally, this week I attended the Scottish Renewables annual conference and exhibition.  Scottish Renewables published a paper at this event highlighting the levels of employment in the sector.  This work suggests that currently there are over 11,000 full time equivalent posts in renewable energy in Scotland.  This is the first time we have seen a study like this, and with over 20GW of projects in development in Scotland, it is clear that this number is only going in one direction.  There are huge numbers of opportunities in the sector, and those of us involved with it have a responsibility to promote it, and to ensure that it remains an attractive prospect to those considering career options for the future.  Although I ended up working in the sector very much by accident rather than by design, there’s no other sector which I would rather be part of, considering the huge potential that it offers.

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