An alliance aimed at ensuring local companies benefit from a £20 billion investment in offshore wind farms has been hailed an “exciting step forward” for Fife.
Fife Council has signed up to the Forth and Tay Offshore Wind Cluster, a group involving local authorities, renewable energy industry leaders and Scottish Enterprise.
It has agreed to contribute £10,000 towards developing an action plan that could bring significant rewards to engineering and energy companies across the region, including the mothballed BiFab yards in Methil and Burntisland.
Dundee City, Angus and Perth and Kinross councils are expected to match the funding as they too join the cluster.
The idea is to develop an in-depth understanding of businesses in the cluster area capable of supplying the rapidly-developing offshore wind sector and promoting them to key industry players, including EDF Energy, SSE Renewables and Red Rock Power Limited.
The three energy giants are planning separate major wind farm developments in the Firth of Forth and Tay.
Ross Mackenzie, Fife Council’s lead officer for investment, said a drive to ensure local companies were involved from an early stage was a core ambition of the UK Government’s offshore wind sector deal.
He said: “Fundamentally, one of the reasons for establishing this cluster is for us to showcase the area’s unique capabilities, skills and companies.
“We need to ensure the capability of our supply chain is known and understood.”
Mr Mackenzie said membership of the group could eventually be widened to include local companies.
Levenmouth Labour councillor Colin Davidson welcomed the alliance as an “exciting development” and suggested including BiFab on the cluster would benefit the company, which was disappointed to be awarded just a fraction of a £2bn wind farm project last month.
The bulk of the fabrication work for EDF’s Neart na Gaoithe project in the Forth will be carried out in Indonesia before being shipped back to Fife.
Mr Mackenzie said the council was working closely with the Scottish Government to support BiFab, particularly with training and business development, but added: “We haven’t made any formal approach to any company yet about being involved in the group.
“We’re absolutely fully behind BiFab but this is about the wider supply chain.”
SNP councillor Ann Verner added: “I find the whole thing really exciting.
“It’s a great step forward and I’m thrilled we’re going down this road.”