Thursday, June 13, 2024

New super wind turbines with blades three times Angel of the North’s wingspan to be tested in Blyth as £86 million unveiled for groundbreaking facility

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  • Most advanced testing facility of its kind will help prevent millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions and support UK’s net zero target
  • will test turbines with blades as long as 150 metres, three times the wingspan of the Angel of the North and almost one and half times the length of the pitch at St James’ Park
  • builds on UK’s world leading position in offshore wind R&D to encourage business investment from home and abroad, creating highly skilled local jobs

The world’s most advanced wind turbine test facility will be built in Blyth, Northumberland, as part of an £86 million investment in wind power R&D facilities that will slash CO2 emissions and grow the economy, Science, Research and Innovation Minister, Andrew Griffith, has announced today (Tuesday 14 May).

The new facility, based at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre will test, validate and certify turbines and is expected to prevent 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions – twice the amount of CO2 emitted by the population of Newcastle in a year – over an eight and half month period, by getting more of the largest and most efficient wind turbines onto the market quicker. This means more of the energy keeping our lights on and heating our homes is from an eco-friendly source.

The funding will go towards building a 150-metre blade test facility that will replicate the harsh conditions at sea, with potential for future expansion to 180 metres, with the existing 100-metre blade test facility being repurposed to increase capacity. This will mean the facility is capable of testing the largest blades currently on the market and in near-future development.

The new R&D infrastructure will support the growth of UK supply chains and the industry’s goal of 60% of offshore wind farm content coming from the UK. It will also encourage investment in our country’s fast-growing offshore wind sector, benefiting our businesses and in turn our economy, while supporting the UK’s commitment to reaching net zero by 2050.

It will help to upgrade the drive train test facility, which tests turbine generators, currently operating at 15 megawatts (MW), to 23MW with a future pathway to 28MW should the industry require it over time – ramping up the power generated and helping to take wind turbine technology to the next level.

The facility – the only site in the world testing both turbine blades and drive trains – will create at least 30 new jobs in Blyth and support five PhDs a year, opening doors for highly skilled and highly paid local jobs to help level up the UK.

Science, Research and Innovation Minister, Andrew Griffith, said:

Pioneering innovation is the key to safeguarding the environment we live in while maintaining a high quality of life and remaining unashamedly open for business.

Our £86 million funding will create highly skilled and highly paid new jobs that grow the north-east and wider UK economies. It will also bring in investment by marking our country as a leader in technologies of the future as well as a global capital for wind power.

At the same time this innovation will strengthen the UK’s energy security in an uncertain world and help us pivot towards the cleaner energy that can preserve our planet for generations to come.

Testing the larger blades and more powerful drive trains before the turbines are put to work offshore helps manufacturers accelerate introduction of the new wave of larger, more efficient machines, which generate more power and reduce the chance of failure in practice.

Designs are well advanced with a view to commencing construction this summer and to the major upgrade to its 15MW drive train test facility, with both expected to be fully commissioned by 2028.

Dr Adam Staines, UKRI Infrastructure Portfolio Director, said:

UKRI continues to make the vital infrastructure investments that will underpin innovation and research throughout the UK for the coming decades. 

The project in Blyth demonstrates that investment in the right infrastructure can reduce CO2, support greater energy independence and drive economic benefits that build world-class places to live and work, as well.

Working across UKRI with Innovate UK’s Catapult Network and the wider supply chain will help achieve these crucial objectives.

Andrew Jamieson, ORE Catapult Chief Executive, said:

This investment in truly world-leading capability will keep the UK at the forefront of offshore wind technology development.

It will enable ORE Catapult to continue to deliver the most advanced research and development infrastructure and expertise to the offshore wind industry, capturing the jobs and economic growth from the transition to a Net Zero economy”.

Notes to editors

About the UKRI Infrastructure Fund

The UKRI Infrastructure Fund supports the facilities, equipment and resources that are essential for researchers and innovators to do ground-breaking work.

This strategic fund helps to create a long-term pipeline of research and innovation infrastructure investment priorities for the next 10 to 20 years. It supports a range of projects from new infrastructures to major upgrades, delivering a step change in infrastructure capability and capacity.

The Infrastructure Fund spans the complete disciplinary spectrum and funds infrastructures located across all of the UK’s regions and nations, and those which form part of major international collaborations.

About the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult

ORE Catapult is the UK’s leading innovation centre for offshore renewable energy, established in 2013 by the UK government as part of a network of Catapults set up by Innovate UK in high growth industries.

Independent and trusted, with a unique combination of world-leading test and demonstration facilities, engineering and research expertise, ORE Catapult convenes the sector, delivering applied research, accelerating technology development, reducing risk and cost and enhancing UK-wide economic growth.

ORE Catapult operates in Glasgow, Blyth, Levenmouth, Aberdeen, the Humber, the East of England, the South West and Wales.

The Innovate UK Catapult Network provides a unique combination of cutting-edge R&D facilities and world class technical expertise to support UK business growth and is a critical element of Innovate UK’s portfolio of Products and Services – its overall offer to drive business innovation in the UK. There are nine Catapults with each one having a strong sector or technological focus that plays a key role in accelerating innovation, growing business and stimulating private sector R&D investment in the UK.

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