The world’s fourth-largest wind farm – and Scotland’s biggest – has been officially opened by HRH Prince Charles.
The Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, located 13km off the coast of Caithness, will save around eight million tonnes of carbon emissions over 25 years.
The North Sea wind farm, which has been welcomed by environmental groups, was opened by the Duke of Rothesay on Monday.
Beatrice’s 84 turbines will generate 588MW of energy – enough to power 450,000 homes every year, and will play a crucial role in the UK’s efforts to combat climate change over the next 25 years.
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The £2.5bn project is the largest ever single private investment in Scotland and was developed by Scottish-headquartered energy firm, SSE Renewables, along with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Red Rock Power Limited.
Construction of the wind farm, Scotland’s single largest source of renewable energy, has provided a £2.4bn economic boost to the UK, of which £1bn went directly to Scotland.
Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, said the firm was “incredibly proud” of the new development.
“We’re incredibly privileged and honoured to welcome His Royal Highness to Wick today to perform the official opening of Scotland’s largest wind farm, Beatrice,” he said.
“Today is about celebrating the hard work, innovation, drive and collaboration of thousands of people from across Scotland, the UK and further afield who all played their part in building Beatrice, which is now Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm and the fourth largest in the world.
“We’re incredibly proud it’s been delivered on time and under budget, even when dealing with the challenges the North Sea and deep waters bring.
“We’re especially proud of the significant positive impact Beatrice has already made to the communities of Wick and Caithness, and which will last for decades to come.
“The UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world and this world-class offshore project paves the way for future development in Scotland and the UK to help decarbonise our economy while boosting jobs and growth.
“Most importantly, Beatrice will save around 8m tonnes of harmful carbon emissions over its 25-year lifetime operation, making one of the most significant contributions across the UK in combating climate change and meeting our net-zero ambitions.”
The opening of the wind farm was welcomed by WWF Scotland, who claimed the renewables sector is helping to tackle the worldwide climate emergency.
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Charity director Lang Banks said: “Scotland is already generating record amounts of power from renewable sources helping us to avoid millions of tonnes of climate-wrecking carbon emissions every year.
“The addition of power from huge offshore wind farms such Beatrice will help us to decarbonise even more of our economy, including our heating and transport sectors.
“We’re in the middle of a climate emergency and renewables will continue to play a critical role in powering the country, creating jobs, and reducing carbon emissions. For Scotland to unlock its full potential to provide the whole of the UK with plentiful and cost effective renewable electricity, the UK Government needs to get fully behind wind power, both on and offshore.”
Beatrice first started development 10 years ago with construction, led by SSE Renewables, taking just over two years.
Prince Charles performed the official opening at Beatrice’s operations and maintenance base in Wick, which has seen a £20m investment in its harbour front.
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The development included the renovation of two, 200-year-old buildings originally designed by renowned Scottish architect Thomas Telford.
SSE Renewables will operate the project, offering up to 90 long-term jobs including offshore technicians and office administrators.
Beatrice will also benefit the local community to the tune of £34m over the lifetime of the wind farm, with a £6m community benefit fund delivering sustainable investment in the local community and a further £28m Coastal Community Fund, which will be delivered by the Scottish Government.
UK Government Business Minister Lord Duncan said: “Wind energy provided a record-breaking 17% of the UK’s electricity last year, an increase supported by sustained government investment which is enabling the sector to grow, now contributing £2.4bn to the UK economy, while driving down costs.
“Beatrice will support nearly 400 jobs in Scotland and today’s opening reinforces our world-leading credentials in seizing the economic opportunities of the global shift to a greener future.”
Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said: “I want to offer my sincere congratulations and those of the Scottish Government to everyone involved in completing the £2.5bn Beatrice Offshore Windfarm.
“At 588MW it is the largest offshore wind development in Scotland to date and can provide electricity for a huge number of homes and businesses. I am also very encouraged by the positive impacts the project has had, such as the regeneration of Wick harbour and the role Scottish fabricators and suppliers have played in its construction.
“In order to maximise economic opportunities a collaborative effort is required between Governments and industry to ensure that our vision for a vibrant offshore wind sector in Scotland is achieved.
“There is a significant pipeline of consented projects, including two further consented sites locally, and, as we look to future licensing rounds, we will seek to fully exploit the wider offshore wind sector opportunities for the Scottish economy while showing due regard for our incredible marine environment.
“This site, in an area once the home to an active oil field, but now home to this tremendous renewable energy development, is now a very tangible example of the global low carbon transition that is now well underway.”