Cromarty Firth gears up for wind

The Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA), which maintains a deep-water port alongside the Scottish town of Invergordon, is on the cusp of securing a financial package to overhaul its facilities for the Beatrice and Moray Firth offshore wind farms.

The CFPA, owned by the Scottish government but administered independently, is “expected” to unveil a £9m ($14.1m) package of bank loans, enough to push ahead with a £20m expansion project, according to The Scotsman.

The report comes less than two weeks after Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond announced that the Highland & Islands Enterprise development agency had signed “joint-working agreements” with four ports, with an eye towards securing financial commitments and work orders. The other three ports included were the Port of Ardersier, Kishorn Port Limited and Global Energy Nigg.

Both Nigg and Ardersier – the former also tucked along the Cromarty Firth – have long been seen as prime candidates for significant fabrication work within Scotland’s marine renewables programme.

But CFPA has reportedly stolen a march on its nearby rivals, with offers from “more than one bank” to help fund the overhaul, which will see nine acres of land reclaimed from the sea.

CFPA chief executive Ken Gray says a tender will be launched this summer and a construction contracted awarded by the end of the year, with the facility ready for offshore wind work by 2015.

The “priority manufacturing sites” of Nigg and Ardersier, alongside “support sites” such as the CFPA and Inverness Harbour, have collectively been touted by the Scottish government as the “Moray Firth Cluster”.

The cluster is seen as being ideally placed for fabrication, construction and maintenance work at the 920MW Beatrice and 1.5GW Moray Firth offshore wind projects, both awaiting consent.