Opportunity Cromarty Firth appoints manager to lead The PowerHouse

Mina Hanna, former petroleum and renewable energy sources engineer

OPPORTUNITY Cromarty Firth has appointed its manager to lead The PowerHouse, a global centre of excellence in the Highlands aimed at bringing together the foremost academic partners and innovative renewable energy organisations to the region.

Mina Hanna, a former petroleum and renewable energy sources engineer, will be tasked with managing the centre, housed at North Highland College UHI’s Tern House, in Alness Point Business Park, Easter Ross.

Originally from Egypt, Mr Hanna graduated with a BSc in Petroleum and Energy Sources Engineering from the American University in Cairo, before last year completing a Master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University.

He worked as an alternative fuels operations engineer for leading building materials and solutions firm, LafargeHolcim, as well as for the Industrial Modernisation Centre in Egypt, prior to taking up the post in the Highlands.

The newly appointed centre manager has plans to launch a series of stakeholder engagement activities, shape the centre’s strategy, and work to secure further funding for the initiative.

Mina Hanna said: “I am delighted to take up this role with Opportunity Cromarty Firth, and I am looking forward to working closely with our partners as The PowerHouse begins to take shape. This is a truly exciting time to play a part in this project and focus on plans to bring transformative change to the Highlands in the way of highly skilled renewables jobs as well as first-class skills and technology development.

“We want to get the industry involved at an early stage and work with them to identify their priorities for future renewable energy sectors. We will develop The PowerHouse’s strategy with their objectives and requirements in mind as we bid to make the centre an invaluable asset to the entire industry.”

The PowerHouse’s aim is to develop innovative applied research and development in the fields of floating offshore wind and green hydrogen. It will also act as a specialist educational hub to provide training on these technologies for school children, students and workers interested in the renewable energy sectors, throughout the Highlands and beyond.

Educational provision will boost awareness and interest among the next generation on the future benefits and capabilities of this technology. It will also provide the opportunity for existing workers from other industries, such as oil and gas and nuclear sectors, to expand their capabilities and transition into renewable energy.   

The centre is backed by Opportunity Cromarty Firth, a collaborative partnership including the University of the Highlands and Islands, as well as other public and private sector organisations such as Port of Cromarty Firth, The Highland Council, Global Energy Group, and Skills Development Scotland.

The project is central to Opportunity Cromarty Firth’s commitment to ensuring the Cromarty Firth becomes a strategic national renewable energy hub, supporting the rapid expansion in renewable projects off Scotland’s shores, with offshore wind and floating offshore wind predicted to be valued at as much as £26 billion over the next 50 years.

Bob Buskie, Port of Cromarty Firth Chief Executive, said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Mina on board. The importance of The PowerHouse is central to Opportunity Cromarty Firth’s plans, and these types of projects are vital to ensuring that the region becomes a forerunner in this new dawn of renewable energy technology.”

The role is initially being supported by the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland’s (NMIS) graduate training scheme, which is funded by the Scottish Government’s £25m National Transition Training Fund and administered by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

Mr Hanna’s was the first appointment within the NMIS-run scheme to recruit 30 graduates unable to find work because of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and provide them with on-the-job training and workforce skills.

Stewart McKinley, Skills Director, NMIS Manufacturing Skills Academy, said: “The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland is boosting the skills of our current and future manufacturing workforce, with the NMIS graduate training scheme providing the opportunity for recent graduates to build vital in-demand skills for new and emerging markets.

“We are proud to be aligned with Opportunity Cromarty Firth, which aims to bring transformational regeneration to the Highlands and are delighted that we could match Mina with his role at The PowerHouse, which so closely matches his skills and career aspirations.”

The NMIS Manufacturing Skills Academy offers advanced manufacturing training and development opportunities for individuals at all levels of their career. It is currently offering free NTTF funded courses for people who are unemployed or facing redundancy to help them develop in-demand skills desired by employers in growth areas of the economy, such as digital and green technologies.

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