It arrived amid talk of jobs and regeneration, but now Samsung Heavy Industries is set to walk away from Methil - leaving behind the world’s biggest off-shore wind turbine on our doorsteps.
The industry giant, which set up shop at the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre back in 2012, has been in talks with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to transfer ownership of the massive 7MW test turbine.
Talks are at a fairly good and advanced stage and if we are able to bring ORE Catapult to Methil, that would help to enhance the energy park and our reputation in the energy sector.Cllr Lesley Laird
Although plans have not yet been finalised, it is thought that the deal will be completed within the next few months.
ORE Catapult is the UK’s flagship technology innovation and research centre for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.
It hopes to use the turbine for research purposes which would enable considerable training and development of skills vital for the offshore wind industry.
In a statement, the group said: “Upon completion of the agreement, the Methil structure would become the world’s most advanced, open access, offshore wind turbine dedicated to research. It would provide UK industry and academia with unrivalled opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of operations and maintenance of offshore wind turbines and thus drive down the cost of delivering clean energy from offshore wind.”
A spokesman for Samsung said: “We are optimistic the turbine will provide unrivalled opportunity to develop understanding of operations and maintenance of offshore wind turbines in UK industry and academia.”
But, for Leven and the energy park, the company’s departure IS a major blow- confirming the loss of hundreds of jobs.
The announcement of Samsung’s arrival in 2012 by then First Minster Alex Salmond spoke of £100m of investment and up to 500 jobs.
To date, the Korean firm has employed just around 20 people at the Energy Park. It is unclear whether ORE Catapult will create any jobs should the deal go through.
The research company confirmed it will shortly be seeking quotations through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) for operations and maintenance support for the turbine in the event of completion of the transfer of ownership.
Councillor Lesley Laird, executive spokesman for economy and planning, said Fife Council was “disappointed” at the announcement, but confirmed discussions were already on-going between
Invest in Fife, Scottish Enterprise, SHI and ORE Catapult.
“They are at a fairly good and advanced stage and if we are able to bring ORE Catapult to Methil, that would help to enhance the energy park and our reputation in the energy sector.
“We have to continue to look at the positives. Not everything which is talked about will happen, and if an opportunity is not going to materialise, you have to look elsewhere, at companies which do want to come to Fife.”
Councillor Tom Adams, chairman of the area committee, told the Mail he was disappointed that a big name like Samsung was moving - but noted that the promise of jobs was never a guarantee.
He added: “Questions need to be asked about what is going on at the energy park. “The Scottish Government need to look at themselves and start bringing in more names instead of blaming Westminster.”
Claire Baker MSP has called on the Scottish Government to respond to concerns about the Energy Park’s future following Samsung’s announcement.
She also highlighted fears of job losses at BiFab, having met with workers, union representatives and management.
Unions GMB and Unite have called for a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, to discuss the future of the company, but so far there has been no response.
Ms Baker’s call comes as the Scottish Government cabinet visted Cupar on Monday, claiming it would provide an opportunity for ministers to learn about important issues affecting locals.
Ms Baker said: “The news confirming that Samsung are pulling out of Methil is another massive blow to the local Levenmouth economy and to the future of Fife Energy Park.
“If the First Minister is serious about listening to the concerns of locals then she will agree to visit and meet those concerned about their jobs and livelihoods. Sadly, she has so far ignored requests to meet with workers.
“The Scottish Government were more than willing to come to the Energy Park when times were good and the promise of jobs were to be made.
‘‘Now these jobs have disappeared it’s easier to put the blame on others but that won’t help the local economy in Levenmouth.
“What we need is action from the First Minister and her Cabinet to support the Levenmouth economy and secure the future of Fife Energy Park.
‘‘It has huge potential to be a focal point for the renewable industry in Scotland. It has a highly skilled and committed workforce but it needs the support of both Governments at this difficult time.”
However, the news has not come as a surprise to campaign group Scotland Against Spin, which told the Mail: “The turbine has barely operated since its erection, first because of a blade failure and then because in most wind directions it produced too much noise to comply with a noise condition to protect local residents. Erecting an almost 200m high turbine within a few hundred metres of peoples’ homes was always going to mean trouble. Engineers have also wondered how such a location can replicate conditions 10 km out in the North Sea for the purposes of testing.
“Now that Samsung are giving up, the temptation will be to blame Westminster and to call for yet more public funding. But throwing more good money after bad is no solution. The Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Fife Council have some hard questions to answer. Why on earth didn’t they carry out due diligence on the Samsung project and the economic prospects for Scottish offshore wind before gambling with public money?”