WORK is set to begin within the next few weeks on a new £74 million green energy plant in Moray.
The UK Government has this week announced financial backing for the biomass development which will cover a 12-acre site on the outskirts of Craigellachie.
The plant – fuelled by woodchip sourced from within a 50-mile radius – will provide heat to the Macallan whisky distillery in Speyside, as well as electricity to the grid.
When first put forward it met with significant resistance from some sections of the local community.
Concerns were raised about its impact on local wildlife, the sustainability of the wood supply and increased traffic, amongst other issues.
A total of 113 objections were received by Moray Council before the local authority’s planning committee approved it by a narrow 7-6 margin in March, 2013.
The plant should have the potential to generate enough renewable energy to power more than 20,000 homes.
The subsequent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions has been estimated as the equivalent to taking 16,000 cars off the road.
Welcoming the funding announcement, Moray’s MP, Angus Robertson, said: “This level of investment is hugely significant for any area but especially for somewhere like rural Speyside.
“This comes on the back of hundreds of millions of pounds being invested in multiple distillery sites, and it bodes very well for the economic future of Moray.”
Pearl Paul and Mike McConachie, who are both councillors for the Speyside Glenlivet ward, also welcomed the news.
Councillor Paul said: “It is critically important that we have job prospects for young folk in our rural communities if those communities are to be sustainable into the future.
“This type of investment certainly helps to boost those prospects and gives young folk the opportunities. Many of them want to live and work where they have been brought up. I very much welcome this boost.”
Councillor McConachie said: “This is good for jobs both directly and in the supply chain, as well as the obvious boost for local firms involved in construction.
“Speyside is seeing substantial investment from a variety of industries, notably from whisky. Combined with this energy investment it amounts to well into the hundreds of millions of pounds.”
The Government’s own UK Green Investment Bank is backing the project to the tune of £13 million, while the Treasury has also guaranteed another £48 million to be raised on the bond market.
Finally, the development firm John Laing is putting in the remaining £13 million.
The UK’s business secretary, Vince Cable, also gave his firm backing to the biomass plant.
Speaking after the announcement, he said: “This investment in Speyside will not only helpsecure jobs, boost a vital industry and support the local supply chain, but also generaterenewable energy for homes in Scotland.”
Building the plant will require a workforce of more than 100, while 23 permanent jobs will be created to man the site.
The Government announcement follows hard on the heels of a decision by Moray Council to approve plans put forward by the nearby Macallan distillery to build a £100 million production facility and visitor centre.
The distillery will be a major beneficiary of the new biomass plant, which will provide up to 90% of the steam needed for its whisky-making process.