Highlands set to host renewables centre of excellence

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BUSINESS BULLETIN

PLANS to establish a global centre of excellence for renewable energy technologies in the Highlands have been unveiled today.

The project, backed by Opportunity Cromarty Firth and a range of public and private sector organisations, will focus on research and development in areas such as floating offshore wind and green hydrogen.

An educational hub is also planned for the centre, based on the North Highland College UHI campus, at Allness Point Business Park, Easter Ross, where field studies and modules will be provided for school children, students and people interested in the renewable energy sectors.

A key aim is to establish a skilled workforce able to capitalise on opportunities in renewable projects emerging in the Highland and Islands in the coming decades.

Gary Campbell, University of the Highlands and Islands’ 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”. 

Bob Buskie, chief Executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, speaking on behalf of Opportunity Cromarty Firth, said: “We are delighted that the University of the Highlands and Islands and  North Highland College UHI have agreed to host the Power House at Tern House. 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.”

Transport giant FirstGroup has embarked on a renewable energy partnership across the Atlantic.

The company’s First Student and First Transit divisions have entered a collaboration with NextEra Energy Resources, which will ultimately work towards a joint venture to pursue the electrification of thousands of school and public transportation vehicles across the US and Canada.

Matthew Gregory, chief executive of FirstGroup, said: “First Student and First Transit are taking this significant step in order to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions for the communities we serve.

“We have found a world-class partner in NextEra, who shares our vision of the importance that electrification and zero-emission technologies will play in the future of sustainable transport.”

FirstGroup is continuing to explore the sale of its North American businesses with potential buyers.

Consumer goods firm PZ Cussons has revealed the ongoing pandemic is helping sales of its Carex soap products soar – cementing its position as the biggest hand wash brand in the UK.

The increased sales helped overall revenues in the six months to November 30 jump 10.2% to £321.9 million, although pre-tax profits fell slightly from £36.8 million to £36.3 million due to increased costs.

Bosses said its “focus brands” were particularly strong – up 21.9% – driven by Carex, Morning Fresh, Cussons Baby and St Tropez products.

They also warned that the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, and continued closure of the high street, could prove tricky for the year ahead.

Chairwoman Caroline Silver said: “The external environment continues to remain very challenging and volatile, but we remain focused on developing our strategic plans that will benefit all stakeholders in the longer term.”

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