Old factory in Edinburgh becomes Scotland’s biggest renewable energy hub

It was once a bustling industrial site for shipbuilding and repairing, but after the great depression of the 1920s, it changed into a huge coal-fired power station. By 1968, when construction began at nearby Cockenzie Power Station, its days were numbered. It finally closed in 1981 and was demolished two years later to make way for an industrial park that never materialised.

The land lay fallow until 2003 when Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) bought up the site with plans to build one of Europe’s biggest offshore windfarms there. SSE has now teamed up with Scottish Enterprise, which will redevelop the land for business and has already attracted many companies, including German giant Siemens, NHS Lothian, and the Scottish Enterprise Skills Academy.

The plans to develop the derelict space have been in progress since 2003 by SSE, who bought up the site. As well as strategies to build one of Europe’s biggest offshore windfarms there, they also wanted to use the former coal power station site. In 2007, Scottish & Southern Energy formed a partnership with Scottish Enterprise, which is working on redeveloping the area for business use. Thousands of jobs will come from this development, and it is hoped that many more will be created in future years. The Leith Development Agency (LDA) is also involved with securing around 1000 jobs from the scheme.

As well as developing an offshore windfarm, SSE is also building an energy park with nine companies already on-site at this pioneering site to research and create renewable technology in conjunction with Scottish Enterprise. German giant Siemens (previously Siemens Brothers) has joined SSE to upgrade their electrical infrastructure and is setting up a Centre of Excellence for renewable technologies, creating around 400 new jobs in Scotland when it is fully operational. It only employs people who have been disabled somehow, yet about a third of them work full time, so it shows that they have the potential for further development into the mainstream industry.

Gaels Gàidhealach has moved part of its education service and will be responsible for managing the Scottish Enterprise Skills Academy. The academy will help businesses develop their staff’s skills so that they are up-to-date with the latest technology and education for young people and adults who need to refresh their skills or learn new ones.

Leith Development Agency has also relocated its headquarters there, which will eventually house around 1000 jobs in research and development by 2012. They hope to attract multinational companies to the site and create thousands of new jobs in Scotland. There is a great deal of potential with offshore wind farms, wave technology, biomass power stations, and solar power generation yet fully explored in Scotland. It is hoped that Leith Offshore Renewable Energy Park (LOREP) will become a centre of excellence and provide the growth to use this potential.

It is envisaged that Leith Offshore Renewable Energy Park (LOREP) will be at the forefront of these developments as one of Europe’s largest ORE parks. Situated to the east of Edinburgh on land between Musselburgh and Portobello near the Firth of Forth, this site has already attracted significant investment from several major organisations resulting in over 80 jobs. Scottish Enterprise is overseeing its development, allowing for 1000 new jobs and generating clean green electricity equivalent to supplying 50,000 households or powering 30,000 homes.

SSE has spent over £40m on redeveloping the site, and around a further £25m will be invested in renewable energy facilities before 2010. In addition to this, Scottish Enterprise has also invested £45m in infrastructure improvements such as transport links, roads and telecoms plus between £6-10m into office buildings like Heathfield House, which Leith Development Agency already occupies. There are plans for 1000 jobs being created at LOREP and an access road linking it to the A1. This will make the site easier for employees and visitors to travel there via public transport or car to work at Scotland’s largest offshore ORE park from 2011 onwards.

These developments aim to create the infrastructure for Scotland’s first-ever offshore wind farm and energy park as part of a £1.5bn green energy development plan in Scotland. £55 million is being invested in this project by Scottish Enterprise, which will help create 1000 jobs in research and development, engineering and construction, and 150 permanent posts once the site opens.

It is hoped that Scottish companies will benefit from opportunities that arise from having major ORE projects located nearby where they can supply goods or services to them. They may also gain knowledge or skills that can then be used to develop their projects similar to how the electronics industry was spurred on by IBM’s development of silicon chip technology during the 1980s. It is also hoped that LOREP will be able to reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions and create green jobs when many industries are moving offshore or overseas.

Fun Fact: During construction an Escort massage from Edinburgh wanted to set up a studio right next to the Energie Hub to make some business with the workers, but did not receive a building permit. Reason: The concept was not energy-neutral!

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