• Kaitlyn Chatwood

Plans unveiled for Port of Leith which will push Scotland to a greener future.

Forth Ports have released incredible new plans to construct an energy hub at the Port of Leith.

This is not just any new energy port. This will be Scotland’s largest, renewable energy hub which will inevitably help Scotland achieve its net zero carbon emissions target by 2045.

Forth Ports owns and operates seven ports around the UK with a focus in Scotland, including Leith and Grangemouth. It was established in 1967 and has grown to become the UK’s third largest port operator group, which means they are connected to local and national economies as the Forth Ports handles, exports and/or distributes commodities.

The Port of Leith is based in the Firth of Forth and is an excellent location for such ambitious plans. It has two dry dock facilities, can handle in excess of 1 million tonnes of cargo and, of course, is the current home to the Royal Yacht Britannia. The Port of Leith is also the largest enclosed deep-water port in Scotland.

The proposal starts with a £40 million private investment. The first phase is building a riverside marine berth capable of accommodating the world’s largest offshore wind installation vessels. The facility itself will have 35 acres of adjacent land which will be used for logistics and marshalling. The site will feature a heavy lift capability of up to 100 tonnes per square metre (t/m2). A second phase will include upgrading a 140 acre cargo handling site to accommodate various facilities such as lay down, assembly, supply chain and manufacturing opportunities. The 175 acres will supposedly stretch from Ocean Terminal to Seafield.

There are several benefits which are sure to come from this incredible investment. It will support and boost the economy of Leith and further locations, as the renewable energy hub will create up to 1000 long term, direct job opportunities, and a further 2000 indirect jobs. It will also help push Edinburgh’s, and Scotland’s, Covid-19 recovery plan. Of course, the most important benefits are the green, clean energy implications. The Firth of Forth will become Scotland’s pedestal for its green energy transition and will be a major contributor to Scotland’s 2045 net zero greenhouse gases target.

The Crown Estate Scotland released the ScotWind seabed leasing review on Monday and there are existing offshore wind farm development plans. If you add in the Firth of Forth’s naturally deep waters and how close the North Sea is, there should be work for the next 30 years at the renewable energy hub from offshore wind alone. It is clear that the Port of Leith is the perfect place to support future offshore wind farm development.

Charles Hammond OBE, Group Chief Executive of Forth Ports, said: “We are committed to playing a significant role in the renewable energy sector and, through that, Scotland’s energy transition to net zero as we also tackle the challenges of Covid-19 recovery and economic regeneration. This is a pump-priming investment in logistics and marine infrastructure at the Port of Leith as we harness Scotland’s natural resources for future generations and has the potential to play a significant part in our forthcoming Firth of Forth Green Port bid.

“Leith’s proximity to the North Sea, which is set to become home to many more offshore wind developments, coupled with the natural deep waters of the Firth of Forth, makes this an ideal location to support not only those developments already planned, but the pipeline of projects that are sure to follow. That’s why we’re prepared to invest our land, our expertise and our shareholders’ money to further build and strengthen Scotland’s renewables supply chain to deliver new long-term jobs. Forth Ports is committed to both help make Scotland’s renewables future a reality and help it meet its carbon reduction targets.”

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson, said: “The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets to increase offshore wind capacity to 11 GW of energy installed by 2030 – enough to power more than eight million homes. This commitment … capitalises on the fact that Scotland’s seas have some of the best offshore wind resources in the world. It is fundamentally important that the bold and necessary action required for us to reach net-zero is taken in a way that is fair and just for everyone. It must seize the economic benefits that will be created, supporting jobs and our wider society.”

City of Edinburgh Council leader, Councillor Adam McVey, said: “Renewable energy plays a vital role in tackling climate change and in securing a bright economic future for everyone in our Capital. The increase in jobs for people in Leith and across Edinburgh is hugely welcome and underlines our economic resilience as a City.”

Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland is at the start of its offshore wind journey, with plans to increase capacity tenfold in the coming decade. Ports and harbour infrastructure have an enormous role to play in the growth of that multi-billion pound sector which, with support from government and industry, is likely to grow much more quickly than it has to date. The announcement of such significant activity by Forth Ports is hugely welcome and will act as a signal to draw other, wider private and public sector investment to grow the skills, expertise, innovation and supply chain we need to make the most of this exciting next phase of the renewable energy industry’s development. The Scottish Government’s Sectoral Marine Plan contains many sites for floating wind development which, coupled with investments in infrastructure capable of handling the scale of floating turbine technology, mean we have a chance to gain a foothold in a market with enormous economic and export opportunities, particularly in the US and Asia. Scotland can truly lead the world in offshore wind, and [Monday’s] news from Leith is the first step in that journey.”

The investment announcement from Forth Ports into the future of Leith and clean energy at the Port of Leith is welcomed with open arms.