TURBINE developers will soon have access to a £35m testing facility in the region to help drive the UK's offshore wind energy generation.
A new turbine test rig is being built at Narec to enable turbine companies to bring their systems into operation sooner.
A bespoke 35m-high, 3,000sq building to house the test rig has been completed and handed over six weeks ahead of schedule.
It will be able to deal with the performance, endurance and compressed life testing of complete nacelles – the unit at the top of the tower housing the electricity generation system – up to 15megawatts (mw).
Andrew Mill, chief executive at Narec in Blyth, Northumberland, said: “We will be the first independent facility to undertake accelerated life testing of a next generation offshore wind turbine.
“The early completion of building works is a significant achievement and we expect to have completed our first commercial test programme by the middle of next year.
“The entire facility is bespoke, designed and built to ensure that larger turbines can be brought into operation sooner.
“It will have a significant impact on the improved design and operation of offshore wind turbines in the UK over the next 20 years.”
The Energy Technologies Institute is investing £25m in the Narec facility, by providing funding to GE Power Conversion and MTS Systems Corporation for the design, development and commissioning of the test rig.
Andrew Scott, ETI programme manager for offshore wind, said: “We are delighted with the new building, taking us all a step closer to the drive train test rig being fully installed at Narec.
“We look forward to the state-of-the art, open access test rig taking shape, and with it ultimately helping in the further expansion of the UK’s offshore wind industry.”
The new building – funded by a £10m from former regional development agency One North East – was handed over by Shepherd Construction which has built three new facilities on the site.
The installation of the 15mw capacity test rig by GE Power Conversion is well under way on site and involves a permanent magnet motor and the largest force application system of its type in the world, weighing over 400 tonnes.
Testing onshore improves the understanding of turbine performance and will verify new designs under simulated lifetime operating conditions and extreme events, such as storm conditions and electrical failures. Shepherd Engineering Services will remain on site in a coordination capacity during rig assembly.
Colin Sargeant, regional managing director at Shepherd Construction, said: “We are delighted to be handing over this new state-of-the-art facility to Narec. Having spent more than two years working on the project, the whole team feel privileged to have been involved in developing a facility that will help the UK to further advance the offshore renewable energy industry.”
Last month the project team for the construction of three new facilities at Narec were awarded the Robert Stephenson Award by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) North East. This was presented to Narec, Red Box Design, Shepherd Construction, Arup, Turner & Townsend and Heyrod Construction. Highlighting the “great technical ingenuity in both the design and construction processes”.
ICE judges said: “The requirements of the scheme set unique challenges for the designers to understand and calculate the huge loads applied during the testing process and the construction demanded tolerances more normally associated with a laboratory than a construction site.”
The 15mw capacity wind turbine drive train test facility will be commissioned this summer and is an open access facility.