A HIGHLAND partnership has announced plans to establish a global centre of excellence on a North Highland College campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), to cement Scotland’s place as a world leader in renewable energy technologies.

Opportunity Cromarty Firth said the Power House at Alness Point Business Park in Easter Ross, will bring together the leading specialist groups in the country and beyond.

The aim is to develop innovative applied research and development in floating offshore wind power and green hydrogen. It will also act as an educational hub, providing field studies and modules on these technologies for school children, students and workers interested in the renewable energy sectors.

It is hoped this will boost awareness and interest among the next generation on the future benefits and capabilities of the technology, as well as giving the opportunity for existing workers from other sectors to retrain and expand their capabilities.

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The centre will ultimately create a highly-skilled workforce of tomorrow for Scotland, from trainees to fully-qualified engineers, to capitalise on the opportunities in renewable projects in the Highland region over the coming decades.

It is backed by Opportunity Cromarty Firth, a collaborative partnership involving the UHI, Port of Cromarty Firth, the Highland Council, HITRANS and Skills Development Scotland.

Gary Campbell, UHI’s vice-principal for strategic developments, said: “The Cromarty Firth’s economy and community are in pole position to benefit from the growing revolution in renewable energy over the coming decades.

“The Power House is an exciting opportunity for the University of the Highlands and Islands to collaborate in research and knowledge exchange with industry and with other university partners at the cutting edge of this field.”

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Port chief executive Bob Buskie said: “This global centre of excellence is a hugely influential part of Opportunity Cromarty Firth’s plans and will provide a vital educational tool not only for the renewable experts of today to find innovative solutions, but also in developing the Scottish workforce of tomorrow.

"The Power House will play a vital role in ensuring that the highly-skilled jobs needed in the floating offshore wind and green hydrogen sectors go to Scottish workers, as well as linking up research and industry to develop innovative new technologies on Scottish sites.The importance of these projects to the Cromarty Firth, and to Scotland’s economy more broadly, cannot be underestimated. They would bring skilled jobs and high-wage opportunities to the Highlands on a level not seen since the oil boom of the 1970s.”