United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Offshore support industry builds up -- New life for Arnish yard

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New life is once again being breathed into the troubled Arnish yard at Stornoway on the Scottish island of Lewis, which has long tried to establish itself as a wind turbine tower producer. Offshore engineering firm Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) is to lease the Arnish premises to support its expansion into making support structures for the offshore wind industry.

The plant at Arnish Point has had a chequered history. Its most recent occupant, Altissimo, which traded as Camcal, closed its turbine tower fabrication plant in December with the loss of 45 jobs. Altissimo, backed by Swiss and Dutch investors, bought Camcal in 2007 after that company, unable to pay its bills, called in the receiver. Camcal had taken over the plant following the demise of tower maker Cambrian Engineering, the site's first wind industry occupant, which had expanded too early for success in the UK wind industry.

BiFab already employs 475 people at its two fabrication yards at Methil and Burntisland, both in Fife. Its Methil plant produced the 70 metre jacket substructures and foundation piles for the two Repower 5 MW turbines in the deepwater Beatrice project. BiFab now has orders for jackets for 30 Repower turbines at the Ormonde offshore wind farm in the Irish Sea off Cumbria and six jackets for the Repower turbines at Alpha Ventus off Germany. It is also making support structures for the two offshore transformers at the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm being built off the coast of east England.

Arnish is expected to be operational from this month. BiFab will initially create 100 jobs, but says it will soon increase the workforce to 150. BiFab's expansion comes just after the UK's Crown Estate announced site leases for ten Scottish offshore wind projects with a combined capacity of 6400 MW. While the oil and gas sector accounts for most of BiFab's business, it anticipates its renewables activities growing from 20% of turnover at present to possibly 80%. The company is looking to open a facility on the Germany coast, too.

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