A green energy firm is offering a multi-million-pound boost to help small and medium-sized firms expand into the offshore sector.
The National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec), based in Blyth, Northumberland, has created a £2.8m scheme to support SMEs to get a foothold in the industry.
The initiative, called The Renewable Energy Technology Accelerator (RETA) project, will help companies develop technologies to cut the cost of offshore renewable energy installations.
Tony Ikwue, innovation and corporate development director at Narec, said: “Narec has created this programme to build on the strengths of local engineering companies. Initial interest from industry has been extremely high and the projects selected will see new products being developed in the North East.
“There will also be knock-on benefits by way of supply contracts and knowledge transfer opportunities for SMEs looking to enter these promising but still relatively immature industries.”
Over its lifetime, the project is expected to provide more than 70 North East SMEs with technical and advisory services to help them develop products and services aimed at the offshore renewables industry.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Competitiveness Programme 2007- 2013, which is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, is investing £1.39m in the project. This is being matched by Narec along with five other firms, and all the work will be conducted in the North East.
Councillor Neil Foster, deputy chair of the North East England Local Management Committee, (LMC), which helps oversee the ERDF Programme in the North East, said: “ERDF investment will ensure businesses receive excellent support to develop innovative new products; helping SMEs to enter the market, or enhance their position within the industry.
“Businesses will have access to Narec’s world class research facilities and expertise to develop their ideas and immerse themselves in the emerging supply chain. This will have a positive impact on the North East economy.”
The programme will be completed by the end of March 2015. Two projects are already under way and a third is in development. IHC Engineering Business will work with Narec on the development of an inter-array cable trencher for offshore wind farms.
This will be suitable for trenching both away from and towards turbine and substation foundations in seabed conditions representative of planned UK offshore wind sites.
In the second scheme, Tecnalia will work with PDL Solutions and JDR Cable Systems on the design and development of smart cable technology.
The third project is being formulated and will involve a “tidal energy converter nacelle intervention system”, which will reduce offshore costs.