WKN AG, one of Europe’s leading and most experienced renewable energy developers, has today announced a tripartite agreement with North Highland College’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI), part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, and Energy North to help bolster skills and education in Highland’s communities.
WKN AG is currently pursuing planning permission for Sallachy windfarm in the Highlands, which is set to be situated on the Sallachy and Duchally Estates in Central Sutherland, and represents a potentially significant economic boost to the local area. Since March this year WKN have been in discussions with both organisations regarding a tripartite partnership and have today signed an agreement which encompasses two key initiatives; a graduate placement scheme and a supply side incubator initiative.
The graduate placement scheme will allow up to five placements for graduates, or soon-to-be graduates, from the UHI network who live in or are from the Highlands to be placed with companies who are important to the Highland economy across a range of industries. Each placement is expected to run for a period of 12 to 15 months throughout the construction phase of the wind farm.
The agreed graduate placement scheme will be funded by WKN at a minimum level of £100,000, which will allow at least five graduated placements, including training, travel and administration costs. It will be managed by Environmental Research Institute, and it will be supported by Energy North who will help to promote and identify graduate opportunities from within their member companies.
The supply side incubator initiative will enable WKN to design and deliver a progressive procurement policy that enables local companies based in the Highlands to provide goods and services to WKN during the construction phase of the Sallachy Wind Farm. The key aim of this initiative is to work with these two partners to ensure that companies who are currently providing services to the renewable energy sector in the Highlands have the opportunity to rise from a Tier 3 contractor to a Tier 1 or Tier 2 contractor. Moreover, any Tier 1 contractor will be required to work with local companies to ensure they benefit from the principal contract. This policy will be developed and published well in advance of construction commencing.
Oliver Patent, Head of International Project Development, WKN stated: “We are very pleased to announce this second community benefit agreement in relation to Sallachy wind farm. The initiatives covered in our partnership agreement with Energy North and North Highland College ERI allow for two key areas of growth in the Highlands, skills and education, to benefit from the wind farm when it is consented.
“Additional to this, we announced a ground breaking Community Benefit package in partnership with Criech, Lairg and Ardgay and District Community Councils this summer, which offers an innovative fund which would be worth more than £8m over the 25 year lifetime of the wind farm. Payments into the community benefit fund could start at £3,500 per MW per annum, before rising to a ground breaking £7,500 per MW per annum – a figure that far exceeds the current Highland Council recommendations.”
Prof Stuart Gibb, Director of the Environmental Research Institute at North Highland College said: “NHC ERI are keen to find new and innovative opportunities for graduates and achieve better connections with investors, developers and local businesses. This partnership with WKN and Energy North is an example of such a partnership and we look forward to working with them to delivering such benefits in the near future.”
Ian Couper, Chief Executive of Energy North commented, “The partnership agreement signed today with WKN AG, Energy North and North Highland College ERI brings many potential opportunities for our supply chain members, and we look forward to working with both organisations as the partnership progresses.”
The strategic Section 36 project, which consists of 22, 3 MW turbines will produce enough energy to power 34,000 homes in the Highlands. It will also provide an inward investment of approximately £100m to benefit the Highland and Scottish economy, specifically that of the Sutherland region, as well as assist the Scottish Government reach its ambitious target of 100% renewable energy generation by 2020.