THE North East’s position as a leading international centre for offshore wind power was yesterday cemented with a £25m investment in new test facilities.
The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) will invest the cash into a new turbine test rig at Blyth’s National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec).
The UK has Europe’s biggest wind resource, but until now, has had no dedicated full turbine test facility.
The indoor rig should be available for commercial testing from June 2013, with preparatory work already under way.
The test rig will be larger and more complex than anything currently available and help manufacturers increase reliability of new turbines, which should see consumers enjoy lower energy bills.
Narec chief executive Andrew Mill said the new test rig would build on the centre’s existing facilities – and critically help attract companies to develop offshore wind turbines to the UK.
“The North East has got a fantastic offering for the offshore market because of the existing activities that we have done, such as shipbuilding. This takes the North East to being one of the premier centres for offshore wind power in the UK and Europe,” said Mr Mill.
Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth, said: “It is money for our area, I am absolutely delighted. It means more jobs again and now we need to start building these turbines.”
Roger Styring, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have got the recognition that this is the major test centre in Europe.”
The Liberal Democrat council chief added: “We look forward to the investment coming forward and contributing to wind energy for the country.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Combined with our strong manufacturing and maritime heritage, the UK is well positioned to take advantage of the global shift to clean energy.
“To do that we need substantial investment, and today’s announcement of this state-of-the-art test facility shows our determination to support the renewable energy sector that is helping to reshape the British economy for the future.”
ETI Chief Executive David Clarke said it was one of the biggest projects the institute had been involved with and underlined the importance of offshore wind as a sustainable and affordable energy source.
“This is a world-leading engineering project that will benefit manufacturers, consumers and the UK economy as a whole by helping to increase the reliability and reduce the costs of electricity from offshore wind,” said Dr Clarke. “This is a major step in establishing the UK as a leader in the wind turbine industry.”
The funding is being provided to a consortium of specialist companies Converteam and MTS Systems Corporation for the design, development and commissioning of the test rig.