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Local Connections Of Man Appointed To Lead Tidal Turbines Installations

29th March 2013

Local roots of lead installations engineer for first tidal-stream turbies to enter Inner Sound.

A Caithness-descended sub-sea engineer, who is proud of his Canisbay parish roots, is to take charge of the installation of the very first electricity-generating tidal turbine in the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound next year (2014).

Mr Rupert Raymond's great-grandfather came from John O'Groats and moved away in late Victorian times to train as an engineer in Glasgow. He was responsible for designing just over a century ago one of the area's most iconic buildings, the water-powered John O'Groats corn-mill, now regarded as a key part of the county's 'industrial heritage'.

Mr Raymond, a Londoner, who trained as a naval architect with First Class Honours at Southampton University, has been appointed 'Lead Installation Engineer' with Andrtiz Hydro Hammerfest, the company that will be supplying the first turbine to go into the water for MeyGen Ltd's 396 MW Inner Sound project during the second half of 2014.

He will be working closely with innovative Cornish engineering firm Mojo Maritime Ltd, of Falmouth, which will have the leading role in deploying the turbines on tide-swept Caithness flagstone seafloor, 30 metres beneath the Inner Sound's sea-surface for the MeyGen Ltd project in 2014/5 that is sure to grab wide-spread media attention.

Mr Raymond is a direct descendant through the maternal line of William 'Billy' Houston, who designed the layout of Caithness's last major water-powered corn-mill for his uncle Magnus Houston in 1901. It produced oat- and bere-meal from crops grown on the parish's local crofts and farms. The latter, ground from the 'ears' of an early-ripening barley-like cereal, was used to bake unleaven dark-brown 'bere-bread', an historic staple of the local Canisbay diet until the mid-20th Century.

The last Caithness meal-mill with its operational machinery still intact is to be preserved under an ambitious project sparked off by Prince Charles's Building Trust, which was recently awarded a 221,316 National Lottery-funded grant to get the ambitious work under way.

Mr Raymond was in the area to meet up with Mojo Maritime's MD Captain Richard Parkinson, who introduced him to Bill Mowat, chairman of Gills Harbour Ltd, where the 'Mojo Man' says he wants to base his company's revolutionary catamaran HiFlo-4, which will be the World's first purpose-built 'tidal-stream turbines' installed when the 55/58 metre ship is delivered from her builders' yard in 2015.

This is a port that Rupert has become familiar with in recent months as he travels across the Pentland Firth on Pentland Ferrie's thrice-daily Pentalina to assess the underwater progress of his Glasgow-based company's tidal stream prototype turbine. which has been producing electricity for over a year for the 'grid' at the European Marine Energy Centre's (EMEC) tidal stream test facility at Falls of Warness, off Eday, in Orkney's North Isles.

He says: 'This is a very exciting time professionally for me with being involved at the cutting edge of tidal-stream generating technology.

'It's particularly interesting to me personally, in that the major project I'm involved with, involves deploying the very first tide-stream turbines the Inner Sound and that is happening right on the doorstep of my Canisbay parish ancestral home, so hopefully I'll be seeing a lot more of it before too long'.

Tide-flows and sea-conditions at EMEC's tidal test site are quite similar to the Inner Sound with the latter also having a flagstone base, swept almost bare by the strength of the currents flowing in alternative directions in each 12.5-hour tidal cycle.

MeyGen Ltd plans initially to install 6 turbines in the Inner Sound as a 'test commercial array' of which at least 3 are expected to be of the Andrtiz Hydro design.

Andritz is Europe's biggest manufacturer and supplier of hydro-electric turbines and has its HQ in Graz, Austria.

Its Hammerfest turbine was developed by a small specialist engineering firm in the little town (population 9,000) of that name in Arctic Norway, where its original 300 kW (one third scale) model has been successfully generating power in a nearby fjord for over 6 years.

Its research and development department was moved to Glasgow two years ago, when city-based Scottish Power (owned by Spanish-based utility company Iberdrola) bought a stake in it, whilst in 2012 the 14,000-employee Austrian company took a majority stake in the business that was previously known as Hammerfest Strom AS. Andritz Hydro Hammerfest has kept its 'new' tidal turbines subsidiary's h.q. in Glasgow, with Europe's most Northerly town's name retained in its name.

Mr Raymond has known about his Canisbay links for years but recently read up about Billy Houston's involvement in the John O'Groats corn-mill design in his cousin Anne 'Nancy' Houston's 400-page social history 'Lest We Forget: the Parish of Canisbay', published with profits going to Canisbay Kirk's Fabric Fund in 1996 and still available.

And he's promised to call on Nancy and her retired bio-scientist husband Dr Jack Dunnett MBE, the internationally-known breeder of potato varieties, at their 'St Magnus' home alongside the John O'Groats Mills in the near future.

Says Rupert : 'I'm hoping to get a tour of the Mill to see my great-grand-dad's handiwork at first hand. This was, of course the last major water-powered project in Canisbay, and it will be interesting to compare the advances made in the past Century that are leading to its next new water-powered project, with the turbines soon to be going into the Inner Sound.

'I certainly hope that it brings as much socio-economic benefit to the local people as did my ancestor's efforts did for local farmers and crofters in having a modern mill on the doorsteps in 1901, saving them an otherwise long 'horse and cart' trip'.

After graduating in the early 2000s, Rupert spend his first 3.5 years working with major UK-based 1,300-employee BMT (British Maritime Technology) Group in Southampton. He then became a project engineer with major Italian-owned Saipem UK, working on designs for offshore oil projects worldwide.

From there, Rupert worked with a British subsidiary of US offshore engineering group KBR (Kellog Brown & Root) which used to own the yard at Nigg on the Cromarty Firth and had a major stake in the (now) Subsea 7 yard at Wester, near Keiss, when Caithness's major oil & gas pipeline-fabrication facility traded as 'Rockwater UK Ltd'.

Mr Raymond joined Hammerfest Strom just over two years ago in Glasgow.

As lead Installation engineer, has a wide-ranging remit with Andrtiz Hydro Hammerfest there; his key duties involve many practical aspects of the commercialisation of his company's 1 to 1.4 MW design of tidal turbines.

Bill Mowat
Gills Harbour Ltd


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