The Scottish government has announced a £14m investment in marine energy skills development and research projects.
The college, which is located beside the Pentland Firth, one of Europe’s principal marine energy resources, will use the funds to invest in a centre for engineering skills and a centre for energy and the environment.
The investors in the effort include the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), UHI, the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Highland Council.
The Marine Renewable Energy and the Environment (MaREE) research programme will run in collaboration with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) near Oban in Argyll.
The £4m programme will be led by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) North Highland College and will focus on issues surrounding marine energy development in Scotland.
MaREE will provide 17 jobs, including six PhDs, and it will look into various aspects, such as grid constraints, design expertise, environmental impacts and synergies between the oil and renewable industries.
The programme will require a £3m expansion of the ERI’s current premises to house the centre for energy and the environment. A campus building will be attached to North Highland College UHI.
In addition to research, the building will also be used for teaching and offering post-graduate qualifications such as MSc Environmental Management and Renewable Energy. It is hoped that it will also provide space for the ERI’s long-term growth options, commercialisation and for spin-outs and small-scale inward investment.
The centre for engineering skills, which is subject to planning approval, will be built to work alongside the centre for energy and the environment to deliver training facilities, both for the immediate need for decommissioning skills at the Dounreay nuclear site. It is also hoped that it could be used for future sustainable development, focusing on marine renewable energy in particular.