£86m boost for offshore wind research facilities

Image credit: ORE Catapult

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)  has announced £85.6m of funding for the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to expand and upgrade its testing facilities National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland.

The investment aims to support development of the next generation of super turbines in the UK.

The late-stage research and development facilities, designed for the testing of blades up to 150m and drive trains up to 23MW, combined with ORE Catapult’s expertise in test and demonstration, will ensure turbine manufacturers can accelerate their technology 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 and are expected to prevent 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by accelerating deployment by a minimum of eight-months.

They will also support the growth of UK supply chains and provide critical research infrastructure to support inward investment into the UK wind industry. 

The investment will create 30 new jobs in Blyth and support five PhDs a year.

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”.

Designs are well advanced with a view to construction starting in the near future at the Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth. 

The development will see a new blade testing facility, 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.

Science, innovation and research minister, Andrew Griffith, added: “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.”

Dan McGrail, CEO of RenewableUK, said: “Investing in ground-breaking research to develop the next generation of turbines is vital if this country is to retain its position as a global trailblazer in innovative offshore wind technology in the face of strong international competition. 

“Last month we launched an Industrial Growth Plan for offshore wind which shows how proactively focussing on high-value components such as blades will boost the UK’s economy by £25bn and support an extra 10,000 jobs over the next 10 years. 

“We have an excellent opportunity to build up new offshore wind supply chains, and the cutting-edge work being done by our colleagues at ORE Catapult will help us to achieve this”.    


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