Plans go in for £400m wind turbine test site off Blyth coast

An animation showing how the onshore testing facilities work together - electrical and materials labs, Turbine Training Tower, Wave Flume, Dry Docks and Tidal Turbine Drive Train Testing Facility.
An animation showing how the onshore testing facilities work together - electrical and materials labs, Turbine Training Tower, Wave Flume, Dry Docks and Tidal Turbine Drive Train Testing Facility.

PLANS have now been submitted for a new multi-million-pound research and development centre off the coast of Blyth.

The Blyth offshore demonstration project has been developed by the town’s National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec).

An £18.5m grant from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced in February 2010 has enaabled Narec to put the infrastructure in place for a grid-connected offshore demonstration platform, and now it is looking for hundreds of millions pounds more to get the project up and running.

The facility will have the capacity to accommodate up to 99.9mw of offshore wind power.

Narec has now formally applied to the Marine Management Organisation for permission to go ahead and construct the facility.

If approved, it will see 15 turbines built in the sea in three lines of five.

The offshore centre will cost up to £400m, and that bill is set to be footed by three partners expected to be utility companies or other developers wanting to use the site to test turbines, foundations, towers and blades.

Narec marketing manager Steve Abbott said that the demonstration wind farm will allow developers and manufacturers to learn about the design and effectiveness of wind turbines in real offshore conditions.

“The three partners will be able to choose the make, type and design of the 5mw or 10mw wind turbines which they want to see trialled and certified out at sea,” he said.

“The results of this will mean they are able to make decisions about commercial offshore wind farms which they want to build.

“What makes offshore wind farms financially possible is reducing downtime.

“It can be costly and take a long time to get to a turbine for repair, so if they can be tested beforehand you can almost predict when you will be able to maintain them.

“Wind turbines need rigorous testing and development before they are deployed in large numbers, and it is more effective to do this in a controlled way.

“The whole idea is that we are proving the technology so we are reducing the risk when developers make decisions about large-scale commercial offshore wind farms.”

The application process is expected to take around 12 months, and it is hoped that preparatory work, including the creation of foundations, will start next year, providing the three partners are in place.

The turbines will be connected to the grid but will not operate as a commercial wind farm.

They will be built in water depths of between 35m and 60m.

Mr Abbott added that the new 100mw test facility would help to anchor the technology in the region with the potential for future jobs coming from the partner companies.