Giant turbine still on...but no local jobs

Fife Energy Park,  Methil
Fife Energy Park, Methil

A MULTI-MILLION pound contract to build a platform for the world’s most powerful wind turbine at Fife Energy Park has been lost by a local firm.

In a surprising blow to BiFab, Korean industrial giant Samsung Heavy Industries has awarded the tender to a company in Renfrew.

Disappointed boss John Robertson said the decision was “extremely unfortunate”, given BiFab boasted such a highly-skilled workforce already on site at the Methil yard.

“It’s a great pity and has meant we cannot offer jobs at a critical time,” he commented.

“It’s a real missed opportunity.”

BiFab had submitted a competitive tender and guaranteed delivery which, according to Mr Robertson, has already been set back by two to three months.

He added: “We were very effective in trying to build a relationship with them (Samsung). It’s a great disappointment.

“It’s not a good message for Fife and Fife companies. It’s a pity we cannot win work on our own doorstep.”

Samsung’s plans grabbed the national spotlight in January, when it was revealed Methil would host its first offshore wind venture in Europe.

The company is committing up to £100 million to the project, in which Fife Energy Park could be the test venue for a new 7MW wind turbine – the most powerful of its kind in the world.

The blades for the 190m demonstration turbine are currently being tested in Germany and, if approved, construction is expected to be complete at Fife Energy Park by the middle of next year.

However, although Samsung’s package proposed around 500 new jobs for Scotland, so far, Methil is losing out.

Steel Engineering Ltd in Renfrew has secured the platform contract, while East Kilbride-based firm Clyde Bowers is supplying gearboxes.

It is understood that, once constructed around 20 metres out to sea at the Methil yard, the turbine will be tested for at least a year.

If successful, it is expected the gearboxes will be constructed at Methil in a newly-built assembly plant running parallel with the main operation.

Speaking to the Mail, a Scottish Enterprise spokesperson assured Samsung remained committed to Fife and Scottish investment.

Robin Presswood, senior manager for business and strategy at Fife Council, added: “Offshore wind remains the single biggest growth opportunity for Fife’s economy over the next three years.

“Fife – and particularly Methil – is in a very strong position to attract mobile projects by both overseas, UK and Scottish investors.

“It is clear the Samsung Offshore Wind demonstration project is at an advanced stage, and I am hopeful the Scottish Government will conclude its consideration of the Section 36 application in the near future, allowing this landmark project to proceed.

“Fife Council is working with partners at Scottish Enterprise to map out how the Energy Park site can accommodate planned growth by both local companies such as BiFab, and inward investors that are likely to be attracted to the area thanks to its central location on the east coast, first class quayside sites, and skilled workforce,” added Mr Presswood.

“The fact that four major turbine manufacturers have now declared an interest in manufacturing in Scotland bodes well for Scottish-based engineering suppliers, and we will continue to work with all Fife manufacturers to explore this market. The offshore renewables sector is an important new market and, as such, it will take a period of time to fully mature.

“But by 2015, I hope there will be significant orders being placed to support engineering jobs at major employers across Fife.”