A PIONEERING facility was launched yesterday to further cement the region’s growing reputation as a world leader in the green energy industry.
The UK’s first wind turbine training tower has been built at the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in Blyth, Northumberland – which is already a major centre of excellence for wind energy research and development.
The 27 metre tall tower will be used to train up to 500 wind industry students, apprentices and employees each year in how to install, operate and maintain massive offshore turbines up to 125 metres high.
It will allow budding technicians, engineers and maintenance workers to find out if they suffer from vertigo or have a problem with working at height as they embark on their potential careers in the £100bn sector.
Training will be provided on how to get up and down turbine towers safely, how to carry out rescues and the use of tools and equipment.
The 54-tonne structure puts Blyth at the cutting edge of the drive to train and upskill the turbine technicians of the future, and further strengthens the region’s role as a standard bearer for the low carbon economy. The UK is likely to have between 5,000 and 7,000 offshore wind turbines installed by 2020, and it is estimated that will require a skilled workforce of about 70,000 in research, development, engineering and maintenance.
Yesterday the Blyth tower was officially opened by energy and climate change minister David Kidney. He said: “I’m really impressed with this brilliant new training facility. It will help people from the North East and across the UK to get the skills they need to help us generate more clean, green and secure wind energy.
“Fighting climate change and ensuring our energy security is a challenge, but it’s also a massive opportunity for skills, jobs and investment.
“Research and development, and giving people the skills to build offshore wind farms will be vital to keeping the UK ahead of the world.”
The tower has been developed and built by a partnership comprising NaREC, the Northumberland College and Mainstream Renewable Power.
It will provide training for between 70 and 100 students each year who are on wind technician courses at the college’s Kirkley Hall campus, as well as between 300 and 400 employees from companies in the wind energy field.
Plans to develop a multi-million pound, 20-turbine demonstration site off Blyth in 2012 will allow the training to be done out at sea in a genuine offshore setting.
Yesterday Andy Williamson, NaREC’s director of business development, said the tower was the latest addition to the centre’s growing reputation as a global hub for offshore technology development.
“This is the UK’s first specialist wind technician training tower, and the first open access facility. It is only natural to extend our offering into skills development, where there is currently a huge gap.”
Director of wind and marine, Stephen Wilson, said: “The UK has just become the world leader in offshore wind, with the largest capacity installed. ‘The training tower is all about giving wind turbine engineers the basic level of skills they need to help them go on and become specialists. The idea is that this is the start of developing a training centre of excellence here at NaREC.”
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