CALIFORNIAN energy giant Clipper Windpower is to develop a new generation of offshore wind turbines here in the North East. The decision was hailed by UK Business and Enterprise Secretary John Hutton, visiting the company’s headquarters in California, as further evidence that “the UK is fast becoming a magnet for renewable energy investment”.
The move will initially create approximately 25 skilled engineering jobs and further bolster the region’s growing reputation in the renewables and offshore sectors.
Regional Development Agency One NorthEast has agreed to invest a £5m package of support into ‘Project Britannia’ – with Clipper Windpower basing its prototype technology in Blyth, Northumberland. The North East Centre of Excellence for New and Renewable Energy, NaREC, will provide engineering, testing and development services in support of the project.
The investment is the culmination of two years’ collaboration between Clipper Windpower, One NorthEast, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and UK Trade and Investment to bring the project to the region and identify supply chain development.
Business and Enterprise Secretary John Hutton said:“Clipper Windpower’s decision to develop a new generation of offshore wind turbines in the North East is further evidence that the UK is fast becoming a magnet for renewable energy investment.
“A recent report from Ernst & Young showed that the UK has moved up from fifth to second in the world for attractiveness in new renewable investment. Behind this is the Government’s determination to bring down planning barriers and target support at marine and emerging renewables. By 2015 we expect to see a threefold increase in green energy feeding into the grid.”
The move will create jobs and further bolster the region’s growing reputation in the renewables sector.
Clipper Windpower will use the New and Renewable Energy Centre’s (NaREC) world-leading blade test and manufacturing facilities to engineer, construct and test a prototype 7.5 MW offshore turbine, which will be the largest offshore turbine in the world. A single 7.5 MW turbine could potentially provide for the electricity needs of more than 5,500 homes and offset more than 32 million tonnes of CO2.
The US firm has also announced Blyth is to be its European Centre of Excellence for Offshore Wind Technology.
Securing the investment from Clipper Windpower – which has offices across the USA, Mexico and mainland Europe – is a major coup for the North East and for NaREC.
It is hoped the prototype project could lead to further contracts to eventually build the new generation of wind turbines in the region, possibly creating several hundred new jobs in a multi-billion dollar global industry.
James G.P. Dehlsen, chairman and CEO of Clipper Windpower, said: “We are extremely pleased to have One NorthEast working alongside us in support of the ‘Britannia Project’.
“We are honoured to be working directly with One NorthEast and NaREC toward the launch of an offshore wind turbine which will offset the need to import and burn one million barrels of oil over its lifetime.
“Clipper Windpower looks forward to a strong relationship with One NorthEast and NaREC, whose excellent engineering, testing and development capabilities will play a major role in the project’s delivery.
“We are also very pleased with the capability of the local area which provides excellent regional university capability for support of offshore wind technology development, particularly through the Marine Design Centre’s expertise in marine technology and science.”
Mr Dehlsen added: “At the same time, collaboration with the numerous local companies with skills and capacity for turbine component production will be a great asset as we implement the manufacture of the Britannia wind turbine.”
One NorthEast and NaREC’s support package for the project includes finance, access to offices, development, testing and assembly facilities over a two-year period.
Ian Williams, One NorthEast director of business and industry, said:“Securing this substantial commitment from a company of the stature of Clipper Windpower is fantastic news for our region and confirms North East England as a major UK hub for renewable energy technology development and investment, building on our power generation manufacturing heritage.
“It has been a real One NorthEast and UKTI team effort to secure this project, drawing on the expertise of our inward investment, sector specialist, US overseas office network and business finance teams to secure this internationally important investment.
“Our region has the engineering, research and development and manufacturing expertise to make this happen. Clipper viewed the North East as its global location of choice for this project which we hope will lead to long term manufacturing and job creation in the region.”
Andrew Mill, NaREC chief executive, said: “We are looking forward to working with Clipper as they develop their Britannia turbine. Their development team will have access to our wind turbine prototype development facilities throughout the course of the project.
“Clipper has been attracted to Blyth for the same reason we ourselves are based in the area – it has a long history in heavy engineering and technology development, not to mention the fact that the Blyth Offshore wind turbines were one of the earliest pilot offshore wind projects in the UK. Once again it seems that Blyth will form the focus of new breakthroughs in offshore technology.”
Clipper has worked extensively with the North of England Inward Investment Agency in Newport Beach, California, One NorthEast’s US marketing arm, in the development of the Britannia Project for the UK.
Engineering development of the new Britannia turbine will be shared between Clipper’s Advanced Technology Group, based in Carpinteria, California, and Clipper Windpower Marine to be based in Blyth.