SOME of the biggest and most powerful onshore wind turbines built in the UK so far are being lined up for the Northumberland coastline in a project to re-power one of the country’s oldest wind farms.
Construction work is finally due to start within months on the scheme to replace the nine turbines at Blyth Harbour, which have been producing renewable energy for almost 20 years.
The first phase of the scheme – which was given the green light more than three years ago – involves the installation of what is believed to be the largest turbine yet built on land in the UK.
The giant 3.4 megawatt machine, which will be erected at the landward end of the East Pier, is capable of producing more energy on its own than the existing nine turbines combined.
Towering a total of 130 metres from base to blade tip, it will be more than six times higher than the Angel of the North, three times higher than Grey’s Monument and more than twice the height of Nelson’s Column.
Blyth Harbour Wind Farm operator, Hainsford Energy, says a contract for the REpower Systems XM104 turbine was executed last week, and work on site will start in May.
The company says it hopes shortly to be able to announce its financial partner for the second phase of the project. That involves building three more of the REpower XM104 machines on the East Pier itself.
The re-powering scheme could ultimately involve seven new turbines in a 23 megawatt-capacity wind farm, replacing the nine 300kw machines which were installed in 1992.
The project was approved in principle by Wansbeck District Council in early 2008, and included a proposed 163 metre-high turbine at Battleship Wharf next to the River Blyth. Yesterday Hainsford Energy chairman, Newcastle man Charles Rose, said: “I’m delighted to be building the first REpower 3.4MW wind turbine in the UK. Hainsford was the first UK customer of REpower, and in 2006 we built the Caton Moor wind farm together.
“This is also the end of an era, as the nine 300kw wind turbines which were installed in 1992 will soon be a thing of the past, as they will be removed.
“It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that Blyth Harbour wind farm has been an icon for the wind energy industry in the UK.”
Mr Rose said the first two phases of the scheme, if completed, would provide a wind farm capable of powering about 8,000 homes.
“It is our hope that we get to seven turbines in the end,” he added. He said the 163 metre-high machine “remained a possibility” for the future.
Port of Blyth chief executive Martin Lawlor said: “As far as I understand it there is nothing bigger than 3.4 megawatts in terms of onshore turbines in the UK at present, so this is very good news for the port.
“It helps to keep our profile growing as one of the leading renewable energy ports in the UK.”
Plans for seven new turbines at Blyth Harbour were cleared by then communities secretary Hazel Blears in the summer of 2008 after an objection from Newcastle Airport had delayed the final green light for the re-powering scheme.