Posted by: anthropologyinthewind | June 30, 2013

An Industry Perspective

May and June have been busy months for me as I’ve been heavily involved in the ‘Beatrice Works’ education project, coordinated by Christine Gunn, Caithness Horizons’ education officer.

Coinciding with professional artist Sue Jane Taylor’s exhibition of the same name at Caithness Horizons, which illustrates in striking detail the fabrication and installation of the off-shore wind turbine demonstrators at the Beatrice oilfield, located off the east Caithness coast, the education project has been a succession of intense three-day workshops with students from schools across the county. As well as a classroom-based exercise delivered by STEM ambassador (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Pat Kieran, where students were asked to put themselves in the place of marine renewable developers and carry out a feasibility study on a particular device and location, each group was taken on a site visit to a local organisation involved in the energy industry. Here they were able to ask questions, take notes, and, most essentially, make sketches with the support and guidance of a professional artist. A final day was spent working these rough sketches up into a series of beautiful prints to be displayed alongside Sue Jane’s own work in the gallery and museum at Caithness Horizons.

As well as giving the students an experience that closely mirrors Sue Jane’s own method of working, the process provided a fascinating insight into the intricate relationships between art, industry, technology and engineering. Importantly, by engaging with a variety of local industries, the project allowed students to explore possibilities for their own future. Dounreay nuclear power plant, one of Caithness’s larger employers, is currently undergoing decommissioning with a resultant loss of jobs, and employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry are likely to become scarcer as these children step into the world of work, so emerging renewable technologies may offer one source of potential work in the region to offset these losses – estimates suggest that there are currently 11,000 people employed in the renewable energy sector in Scotland and this is set to grow significantly.

One thing became increasingly evident throughout our site visits: the passion, creativity and energy with which this array of local businessmen and women approached both their work and their interactions with these young people was incredibly inspiring, and many of the students returned to school with a new and optimistic understanding of what their future may hold for them. Whilst not everyone views the imposition of renewable technologies upon this region with the same positive outlook, it seems that within these businesses are a disparate group of people who are relying on and utilising the opportunities that renewables generate to provide a secure future for the county’s young people, as well as for themselves.

Being here in Caithness at this critical time is, for me, as for many others, greatly exciting. It is a time of transformation, of new opportunities and possibilities. For others, what this transition may bring about is more threatening, creating a moment of vulnerability and uncertainty that can be unfairly exploited. How people, both individually and as a community or industry, respond to and adapt to these unprecedented changes is of significant interest to me. How Caithness reacts to this tidal wave of change (excuse the pun) will shape the future for all of us.

The pictures below provide the briefest of insights into the ‘Beatrice Works’ education project and into how the local businesses that we visited are adapting and preparing for change. For a deeper insight into the education project, I highly recommend that you visit Caithness Horizons during July 2013, where both Sue Jane’s work and the students work will be on display.

STEM Workshop: Pat Kieran explains the theory and technology behind marine renewables.

STEM Workshop: Pat Kieran explains the theory and technology behind marine renewables.

Wick Harbour: Out with the old and in with the new! This ice house is surplus to current requirements at Wick Harbour and was entirely demolished the day after our visit to make way for new developments directed at making the harbour an attractive option for the renewable energy sector.

Wick Harbour: Out with the old and in with the new! This ice house is surplus to current requirements at Wick Harbour and was entirely demolished the day after our visit to make way for new developments directed at making the harbour an attractive option for the renewable energy sector.

RNLI: Karl McFarquhar, a crew member of Wick RNLI, poses for the students to sketch him. The RNLI provide an essential emergency service for all sea-going vessels, whatever their business.

RNLI: Karl McFarquhar, a crew member of Wick RNLI, poses for the students to sketch him. The RNLI provide an essential emergency service for all sea-going vessels, whatever their business.

Simpsons Contractors: This crane, one of many owned and operated by the local business, and which requires the skills of a specialist operator, can extend to 59 metres and has been used in the transportation and construction of wind turbines.

Simpsons Contractors: This crane, one of many owned and operated by the local business, and which requires the skills of a specialist operator, can extend to 59 metres and has been used in the transportation and construction of wind turbines.

MUT: Hugh Mackay of Mackays Underwater Technology demonstrated a range of submersible ROVs, as seen here, and other diving equipment used in their work, which includes underwater repair work, pipeline and cable inspection for the energy industry, underwater mapping and dive training.

MUT: Hugh Mackay of Mackays Underwater Technology demonstrated a range of submersible ROVs, as seen here, and other diving equipment used in their work, which includes underwater repair work, pipeline and cable inspection for the energy industry, underwater mapping and dive training.

Trainee Welders at ETEC: The Engineering, Technology and Energy Centre, based at the North Highland College UHI in Thurso, offers an array of practical courses, qualifications and training to ensure people have the skills and abilities necessary to meet the needs of local industry, particularly the energy industry.

Trainee Welders at ETEC: The Engineering, Technology and Energy Centre, based at the North Highland College UHI in Thurso, offers an array of practical courses, qualifications and training to ensure people have the skills and abilities necessary to meet the needs of local industry, particularly the energy industry.

JGC: Established in 1972 to meet the needs of the nuclear industry, this family-owned fabrication company employs over 130 staff and takes on a cohort of young apprentices every year. As Dounreay decommissions, they are actively seeking alternative contracts with the oil, gas and, more recently, the renewables industry to ensure the business can maintain itself.

JGC: Established in 1972 to meet the needs of the nuclear industry, this family-owned fabrication company employs over 130 staff and takes on a cohort of young apprentices every year. As Dounreay decommissions, they are actively seeking alternative contracts with the oil, gas and, more recently, the renewables industry to ensure the business can maintain itself.

Orelia: Whilst sketching at Scrabster Harbour, we were lucky enough to be invited aboard the Orelia, a diving support vessel en route to the Claymore Platform. Divers with specialist skills work in deep water to service the paraphernalia of the oil and gas industry.

Orelia: Whilst sketching at Scrabster Harbour, we were lucky enough to be invited aboard the Orelia, a diving support vessel en route to the Claymore Platform. Divers with specialist skills work in deep water to service the paraphernalia of the oil and gas industry.

Onboard the Orelia: Crew members explain to us how divers live in a pressurised environment for up to 28 days whilst they undertake a tour of duty. This type of work will not be necessary with marine renewables, which are anticipated to be located closer to the surface.

Onboard the Orelia: Crew members explain to us how divers live in a pressurised environment for up to 28 days whilst they undertake a tour of duty. This type of work will not be necessary with marine renewables, which are anticipated to be located closer to the surface.

Subsea7: These pipeline bundles incorporate all the structures, valves, pipes, cables and controls necessary to ship oil and gas across the seafloor. Bundles are fabricated here, stretching over 6km through the interior of the county, and, once complete, are transported offshore using a unique tow method, making them the largest manmade object to be transported in the world.

Subsea7: These pipeline bundles incorporate all the structures, valves, pipes, cables and controls necessary to ship oil and gas across the seafloor. Bundles are fabricated here, stretching over 6km through the interior of the county, and, once complete, are transported offshore using a unique tow method, making them the largest manmade object to be transported in the world.

Inside the Bundle:  Caithness locals and recent visitors will no doubt have seen the bright yellow pipework stretching from the coast at Wester, just north of Wick, inland to Hastigrow. The current pipeline will be launched early in July - watch out for the tugs in Sinclairs Bay who will arrive to tow the shipment away.

Inside the Bundle: Caithness locals and recent visitors will no doubt have seen the bright yellow pipework stretching from the coast at Wester, just north of Wick, inland to Hastigrow. The current pipeline will be launched early in July – watch out for the tugs in Sinclairs Bay who will arrive to tow the shipment away.

 

Scrabster Harbour: Junior harbourmaster, Jason Hamilton, explains to us how ongoing developments at the harbour will ensure that the port remains vital as new business opportunities brought about by the burgeoning renewables industry emerge.

Scrabster Harbour: Junior harbourmaster, Jason Hamilton, explains to us how ongoing developments at the harbour will ensure that the port remains vital as new business opportunities brought about by the burgeoning renewables industry emerge.

Sketching at Baillie Wind Farm: The students’ attention is drawn to the story of local history illustrated in the landscape. From their perch, they can see the Neolithic Cnoc Freiceadain burial cairns; the white dome of the decommissioned Dounreay nuclear reactor; fields ploughed according to modern farming techniques; and the newly constructed and not yet operational turbines.

Sketching at Baillie Wind Farm: The students’ attention is drawn to the story of local history illustrated in the landscape. From their perch, they can see the Neolithic Cnoc Freiceadain burial cairns; the white dome of the decommissioned Dounreay nuclear reactor; fields ploughed according to modern farming techniques; and the newly constructed and not yet operational turbines.

Print of a Baillie Wind Turbine: Around 20 local businesses have been instrumental in the construction of Baillie Wind Farm. Most people in Caithness will know someone who is employed by a firm connected to this venture.

Print of a Baillie Wind Turbine: Around 20 local businesses have been instrumental in the construction of Baillie Wind Farm. Most people in Caithness will know someone who is employed by a firm connected to this venture.

Working up a sketch of Baillie Wind Farm: Believe it or not, the original idea to site a wind farm at this location, which has average wind speeds of 9.5 metres per second – almost offshore conditions! – was conceived in 1993.

Working up a sketch of Baillie Wind Farm: Believe it or not, the original idea to site a wind farm at this location, which has average wind speeds of 9.5 metres per second – almost offshore conditions! – was conceived in 1993.

Gows:  Established in 1987, this is a family-run fabrication company, currently employing 22 staff. Business continues to flow from the nuclear industry, but as this inevitably declines, the firm is in a strong position to tender for contracts within the developing renewables sector due to its proven track record in supplying and servicing the nuclear sector.

Gows: Established in 1987, this is a family-run fabrication company, currently employing 22 staff. Business continues to flow from the nuclear industry, but as this inevitably declines, the firm is in a strong position to tender for contracts within the developing renewables sector due to its proven track record in supplying and servicing the nuclear sector.

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Responses

  1. Absolutely fascinating Louise. the Orelia looks really interesting and obviously captured the childrens’ imaginations.

  2. […] by the wind. One of the biggest surprises for me has been the scope, innovation and expertise of industry in Caithness. I am, of course, showing my ignorance when I say that I had expected Caithness to be […]


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