' Stromness is a town that has a history of international connections. It now stands on the threshold of global opportunities '
James Stockan, Councillor
When it comes to marine renewables and sustainable development, Stromness is at the international cutting edge. The Old Academy site, in the middle of the town overlooking the harbour, is the hub.
Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology was established here in 1990. To date some 350 MSc students, 20 or so PhD students and a wealth of research about more sustainable ways of managing the planet have emerged from this centre of excellence.
Encouraged by the growing success of ICIT, Orkney put up its hand in a bid to become home to a new marine energy research centre in 2000. This ambition was rewarded in 2003 with the establishment of The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). It is the first and only centre of its kind in the world, offering developers of wave and tidal energy devices accredited, open-sea grid-connected testing facilities.
Around this hub a number of renewables companies have developed in Stromness, which are leading the way in Scotland and further afield. Offering services from engineering design, environmental surveying and project planning to a variety of other disciplines, these businesses use extensive experience gathered in Orkney to help develop renewable energy projects, for both marine and land-based energy generation, here and around the world.
With buffeting winds, pounding seas, some of the fiercest tides in the world, good sheltered harbour facilities and renewable, maritime and environmental expertise on hand locally, Orkney has become a magnet for this burgeoning renewables sector, and Stromness is at the very heart of it all. This has attracted a good number of recent graduates to work in Stromness, giving the town an extra buzz.
The Maritime Campus of Orkney College (the ‘Nav School’), based on the waterfront, has been training seafarers for over 40 years. The Nav School is now recognised as a national centre of expertise, developing much-needed skills for the marine renewables sector and helping those working in other fields, like oil and gas, to adapt their existing skills for this new world.
For the latest information about what’s happening in marine renewables, visit Orkney Renewable Energy Forum and to find out about businesses in Stromness click on our business directory, above.