A MASSIVE ramp-up of North Sea offshore wind could see a pioneering installation company more than double its turnover in the next few years.
Stokesley-based MPI Offshore is building two of the world’s fastest turbine installation vessels - and has announced plans for more, in a move that will at least treble its 100-strong workforce.
MV Adventure and MV Discovery are still in production, but work is already booking up fast as the UK races to meet the soaring demand for offshore turbines.
The new vessels are 50% more efficient than the company’s MV Resolution, the world’s first purpose-built ship capable of installing offshore wind farms, which recently broke all speed records by installing nine turbines in seven days on the Thanet Offshore Windfarm project.
MV Adventure, which is currently being manufactured in China and is due back in the UK by January, has secured a two-year contract on the London Array, the world’s largest offshore windfarm.
But MPI bosses say world-leading assets are not the only pre-requisite - a more focused approach and huge rise in skilled workers is needed if Teesside to take its true place as a hub for the UK wind sector.
The company’s chief executive, Paul Gibson, says Teesside needs to win an imminent competition which will see the North-east vying for a slice of Government cash to grow port-site manufacturing for offshore wind, against other areas such as Humberside.
“Even with all three vessels, MPI can only install 320 turbines a year - the UK needs to do 3,000,” said Mr Gibson.
“We’re in the process of securing long charters for MV Discovery and we’re considering building at least three more. “Renewables is expanding in a vertical line for us.
“Over the next few years, we will at least treble our staff.
“But Teesside needs to realise there’s an opportunity here for the big utilities and turbine manufacturers to build plants on the Tees - that’s the focus.
“We need to grab hold of this. We should be pushing harder.
“We’ve got a great skills bases, the resources and a great river.
“It’s not just about assets, the big challenge is skills.
“The UK will need 40,000 trained people to build turbine foundations alone, that’s not including anything else.
“Where are we going to get them from?
“It’s going to be a struggle.”
MV Resolution secured a long-term charter with Centrica in April 2006 to develop wind farm sites in the North Sea, and could potentially remain with the energy giant until 2017. Its success has paved the way for the two larger vessels, which are capable of installing turbines with a tip height of 150 metres. MV Discovery is due back in the UK from China next Autumn.