Energy from Wind and Oil
A number of planning applications for windfarm developments have been lodged in Sutherland. In considering these applications, care is taken to consider a range of factors: on the one hand the benefits to the planet as a whole and to the Scottish and Sutherland economies and local communities; on the other, any possible undesired impact on Sutherland's stunning landscapes, and with it, any possible negative effects on tourism or biodiversity.
One interesting development concerns the proposed linkage of windfarm and North Sea oil initiatives. The Beatrice Alpha wind demonstration project is planned to be located 25 km off Sutherland's east coast, and coastal harbours in East Sutherland could become of significant benefit to it.
North Sea Oil was worth £3bn in expenditure in 2000 and employed 270,000 workers. In Scotland, some 20,000 workers are employed in oil and gas extraction and related activities.
Recent surveys and projections show increasing levels of production, investment, optimism and exports in the UK oil sector. The 2002 budget supports the industry by encouraging greater investment.
Much of the sector is controlled by non UK companies and lower global oil prices led to some large mergers and job losses.
The new Atlantic Frontier is likely to provide opportunities for the Highlands, particularly given the historic importance of fabrication work. However, a number of issues may limit these opportunities:
- Volatile oil prices have not encouraged companies to explore new fields and only 36 out of 300 new licences have been taken up.
- The remaining oil fields will be smaller and more costly to exploit.
- The UK has very high production costs.
- There are labour and skills shortages in the sector which mean that 15% of workers come from overseas.