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Wind farm cash boost for Caithness and Sutherland projects – and funding is still available


By Philip Murray

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The funding has included work to tackle invasive Pacific Salmon in the River Ness. Pictured is a trap designed to catch the fish.
The funding has included work to tackle invasive Pacific Salmon in the River Ness. Pictured is a trap designed to catch the fish.

Several Caithness and Sutherland projects are making a positive impact in their local communities thanks to support from the West of Orkney Windfarm.

Last year the developer set up a small donations fund, offering up to £1000 each towards worthwhile programmes in the far north.

Projects which have received a boost range from an initiative seeking to remove Pacific Salmon from the River Thurso to a group of Orkney girls selected to represent Scotland at the Dance World Cup in Braga, Portugal in July.

Other groups and organisations in Caithness and Sutherland which were awarded a donation in 2023 included North Highland Harriers, Dunnet Forestry Trust, and the Bettyhill Hotel.

John Drummond from River Thurso Ltd said: “This project was the first in the UK and as a result of its success, many other river managers are now looking to copy the idea for their river systems in future years. Pacific Salmon are a non-native invasive species and in recent years have been threating Atlantic Salmon and their habitat, therefore preventing them creating a foothold in Scottish and UK rivers is seen as critical.”

Mike Hay, Deputy Project Director at the West of Orkney Windfarm said: “Our donations programme is just one small way in which we can support some of the many worthwhile initiatives in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney. In every case we have been immensely impressed by the passion and professionalism which each organisation brings, whether its aims are sports, the arts, social care, education or the environment, and we hope the funds we provide help them reach their goals.”

The West of Orkney Windfarm is being developed around 30km off the west coast of Orkney and around 25km from the north Sutherland coast. With an expected capacity of around 2GW, and first power scheduled for 2029, the project will be capable of powering the equivalent of more than two million homes.

It is being developed by a joint venture comprising Corio Generation, TotalEnergies and Renewable Infrastructure Development Group (RIDG).

In addition to the local donations scheme, the windfarm developers have kick-started a number of other initiatives in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney including a £1 million research and innovation programme at EMEC, a £900,000 pan-industry programme to support ten new STEM coordinators across the UHI partnership, and £125,000 to enable up to seven local companies to take part in the rigorous 12-18 month Fit For Offshore Renewables (F4OR) development programme.

Local organisations interested in applying for a donation should fill in an online application form which can be found at https://www.westoforkney.com/communities.

Applications are encouraged for activities including (but not restricted to): education in science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) and the environment; social enterprises or initiatives; and the arts.

“The donations fund will remain open throughout 2024 and we are keen to support small organisations and local initiatives based in Caithness, Sutherland Orkney in particular,” Mike concludes.


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