Designs are well under way, said the government. Credit: UKRI

Blyth gets £85m turbine testing boost

UK Research & Innovation will provide the capital funding for the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in Northumberland, enabling the development of next-generation wind turbine technology.

UKRI said that designs are well advanced with a view to starting construction in the near future at the Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth of the new blade testing facility.

This will be alongside the existing 100m blade test hall, and the major upgrade to its 15MW drive train test facility, with both expected to be fully commissioned by 2028.

The late-stage R&D facilities will be designed for the testing of blades up to 150m and drive trains up to 23 megawatts.

This project helps address UKRI’s ‘Building a green future’ strategic theme, one of five UKRI-wide initiatives aiming to harness the full power of the UK’s research and innovation system to tackle large-scale, complex challenges.

Working with others, UKRI aims to accelerate the green economy by supporting research and innovation that delivers on national priorities and unlocks solutions essential to achieving net zero in the UK by 2050.

Combined with ORE Catapult’s extensive expertise in test and demonstration, the facilities are being developed so that turbine manufacturers can accelerate their tech development in the UK with reduced risk and enhanced reliability for a new wave of larger, more efficient machines.

Both blade and drive train capabilities will have the capacity for further expansion, to 180m and 28MW respectively, to meet future industry demand.

The new facilities will enable faster product development of turbines through test, validation and certification.

They are expected to prevent 2.5m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by accelerating deployment by a minimum of eight-months. This means more of the energy keeping our lights on and heating our homes is from an eco-friendly source.

They will also support the growth of UK supply chains and provide critical research infrastructure to support inward investment into the UK wind industry. They will also create 30 new jobs in Blyth and support five PhDs a year.

Science, innovation and research minister, Andrew Griffith, said: “Putting pioneering innovation at the heart of the UK’s transition to net zero is the key to protecting our environment in a way which continues to lift living standards.

“Our £86m funding will create highly skilled and highly paid new jobs that grow the north-east and wider UK economies while pulling investment in by marking our country as a leader on technologies of the future and unashamedly open for business.

“At the same time, it strengthens the UK’s energy security in an uncertain world and helps us pivot towards the cleaner energy that can preserve our planet for generations to come.”

Dr Adam Staines, UKRI Infrastructure Portfolio Director, said: “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.”

Richard Sandford, co-chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council, said: “I’m delighted that ORE Catapult has deservedly secured this significant level of investment from UKRI’s Infrastructure Fund which will help to maintain Britain’s leading position in offshore wind.

“It will enable ORE Catapult to continue to develop state-of-the-art turbine technology, building on its excellent track record of leadership in innovation.”

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