NICOLA Sturgeon has welcomed the news that the UK's largest wind tower factory is to be built in Scotland.

The factory, which will be known as Nigg Offshore Wind (Now), is to be built at the Port of Nigg in the Cromarty Firth, Easter Ross and is expected to open in 2023.

The site will be capable of producing 135 towers per year and is a joint operation between Inverness-based Global Energy Group (GEG) and Spanish offshore wind tower manufacturing specialist Haizea Wind Group.

The £110 million project north of Inverness will have a 450-metre long factory and will cover an area of 38,000 square metres, equivalent to more than five football pitches.

The development is also supported by debt investment of £15m by SSE The cost of the new facility, inclusive of rolling machinery robotics and a new blast and paint shop is £110-120m.

The First Minister visited the site of the factory, where more than 400 full-time jobs will be created and more than 1000 further jobs as part of the supply chain.

She announced that terms have been agreed between the main stakeholders to build the wind tower manufacturing facility at an event at the port today (December 3).

She tweeted: "Good to be visiting Nigg today to welcome this new investment - the largest offshore wind tower factory in the UK is to be built in Scotland, creating 400 direct jobs & 1000 more in the supply chain.

"An example of a just climate transition in action."

Tim Cornelius, chief executive of GEG, said: “The continued focus on a just transition to a carbon-neutral economy has received fresh impetus as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

“The Scottish and UK governments are looking for opportunities presented by the now inevitable energy transition from a dependency on hydrocarbons to clean and sustainable sources of energy, to create jobs and generate sustainable economic growth."

A GEG spokesperson added that construction is expected to start in January next year, with site preparation and commissioning expected to take about 18 months.

This will support 1248 full-time equivalent jobs across the supply chain in building works and equipment supply.

GEG added that regional staff, historically employed in the oil and gas industry, will have the opportunity to be re-trained and upskilled at the Nigg Skills Academy.

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The factory is expected to receive funding support from the Scottish Government via Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the UK Government via the offshore wind manufacturing investment support scheme.

Ahead of her visit, Sturgeon said: “We need bold, collective action to tackle the global climate emergency, and the growth of our renewables sector over the next ten years will be truly transformative, helping to deliver a just transition to net zero and a greener, fairer future for us all.

“This significant investment in Scotland’s energy sector is testament to the skills, expertise and innovation within our industry. We are delighted to financially support this cutting edge offshore wind towers facility, through Highlands & Islands Enterprise, as it reaches this significant milestone, that will deliver high value, green jobs and bring multiple benefits to communities across the Highlands and beyond while playing a pivotal role in delivering offshore renewables growth in Scotland and further afield.” 

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Alistair Phillips-Davies, CEO of SSE said: “Today’s announcement shows that SSE is willing to put its money where its mouth is to support development of the Scottish manufacturing capability for the offshore wind sector. We have worked with Global Energy Group and stakeholders for over two years to get to this point. Global Energy Group has exciting plans for a world-class tower factory at Port of Nigg and our investment in the planned manufacturing facility demonstrates our continuing commitment to do what we can to support the development of a competitive Scottish supply chain and create local jobs.

“In addition to the debt funding, SSE also looks forward to fulfilling its role as a strategic backer and placing orders with the factory to meet our growing offshore wind pipeline in the near future. SSE is in a unique position with projects of scale, such as Dogger Bank and Berwick Bank, to create sustainable, long-term supply chain opportunities such as at Nigg and the new GE blade factory in Teesside.”