By Scott Wright

A GIANT offshore construction vessel has arrived in Scottish waters as construction gets under way on a £2 billion wind farm 15km off the Fife coast.

Developers of the Neart na Gaoithe wind farm said the Saipem semi-submersible crane vessel will start the installation for piles and prepare the seabed prior to the arrival of steel foundation jackets, on to which the 54 wind turbine generators and two offshore substations will be placed.

The wind farm project, which is owned by EDF Renewables and ESB, will have the capacity to produce around 450 megawatts of low-carbon electricity, enough to power 375,000 homes when complete. It is scheduled to be fully commissioned in 2023. The Saipem S700 vessel is 197.5 metres long and, it is said, capable of working in the most challenging weather conditions. It can lift up to 14,000 tonnes at sea.

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Project director Matthias Haag said: “The construction phase of the NnG offshore wind farm is now well under way and many people will be able to see the S7000 starting construction work offshore. It will be visible from much of the East Neuk of Fife, and from North Berwick and Dunbar. We have carefully considered the implications of Covid-19 and Scottish Government guidelines as the work gets under way offshore and for the continuing onshore works.”

The Neart na Gaoithe project was at the centre of controversy in November when union chiefs complained that Scottish firms had missed out on millions of pounds of work on its development.

GMB Scotland claimed domestic firms were left “fighting for scraps from our own offshore wind sector” when it emerged that they would be awarded just 15 per cent of a key manufacturing contract, with only eight of 54 steel foundation jackets to be made in Scotland.

EDF said it would continue to work “very hard to maximise the potential of the project for the local supply chain in Scotland”, but added: “We do not ignore the supply chain outside Scotland.”