BRITAIN’S drive to produce more renewable energy from wind power has blown a major economic boost in the direction of a Northumberland port town.
As more and more developers join the “energy gold rush” to erect lucrative wind farms across large areas of the countryside, the Port of Blyth is cashing in on the growing demand for imported turbines.
Over the past 12 months the port has established itself as a specialist handling, storage and distribution centre for wind turbines manufactured on the continent and shipped across to the North-East.
It has handled 17 wind energy-related shipments and invested in a new mobile harbour crane capable of handling the 100 tonne lifts which are required as turbines increase in size.
Now port bosses have just completed work on a new 4,000sq metre open storage area at South Harbour to help handle the increasing number of large turbines which are being imported and sent out to various development sites across the north of England and southern Scotland.
Blyth is currently preparing to handle its biggest contract so far, the delivery of 16, 120m-high turbines which will be brought in on six separate ships and erected in Scotland to provide enough energy to power more than 20,000 homes.
Managers hope its growing reputation as a specialist import centre for turbines, many manufactured in Denmark and Germany, will lead to increased business and the prospect of new job creation at the port.
Ironically, the economic boost is happening at a time when the port is facing growing opposition to a bid to erect seven massive turbines, including a 163m-high tower which would be the biggest in Britain, on land it owns.
Power company Hainsford Energy wants to replace its existing nine turbines at Blyth Harbour with much bigger and more powerful structures along the East Pier and Battleship Wharf, in neighbouring Wansbeck.
Yesterday Port of Blyth chief executive Martin Lawlor said it had been handling imported wind turbines on a piecemeal basis for several years, but the business had really taken off in the last 12 months.
The turbines are shipped in as separate towers, rotor blades and hub units, stored at the port and then moved on to sites in the North-East, North-West and Scotland for erection at new wind farms.
Mr Lawlor said: “We have had many, many shipments from turbine manufacturers in the last year or so and have established a reputation as a specialist entry and handling point. We have been very successful in this and we are now providing more storage facilities at South Harbour for these turbines.
“We also help organise distribution and haulage for the importers. It is a high value business and gives us a good return.
“We are looking to build further on this success and see wind farms and other types of project cargo as a key element of our future growth strategy.” The growth in turbine import business at Blyth has been helped by the town’s reputation as a leading centre for green energy.
It has both onshore and offshore wind farms and the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC), which opened seven years ago as part of a £10m investment.