Work starts on offshore windpower testing site

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WORK on part of a multi-million-pound wind turbine test site has begun off the coast of south east Northumberland.

Blyth’s National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) has recruited Brighton-based SeaRoc to install an offshore anemometry hub as part of a project estimated to be worth in excess of £300m.

The research facility will be installed three nautical miles off the coast at Blyth.

It will be positioned next to a shore array forming part of the 100mw-capacity offshore wind demonstration site proposed at Blyth.

The anemometry hub, built in Tyneside, includes a research platform fitted with the latest technology for measuring wind speed and force and collecting data on marine conditions and life.

It will begin measuring wind speeds in October to add to data collected over the last two years.

Narec chief executive officer Andrew Mill said: “This is fantastic timing for the project.

“The new facility will provide greater certainty of wind resource to enable Narec to leverage the additional investment that will make it a world-leading proving ground for next-generation and cost-reducing offshore wind technologies.

“Ours is the largest demonstration site in the UK, and there is strong interest from prospective tenants to deploy prototypes as early as 2014.

“SeaRoc was selected to deliver the full installation service because of its proven track record in offshore renewables and ability to meet our project timescales.

“This is a one-off specialist engineering solution, and we have been impressed with its innovative approach.”

A jack-up vessel will be chartered by SeaRoc to load out the tripod foundation, science platform and meteorological mast tower sections from the Port of Tyne.

When fully assembled, the structure will weigh over 700 tonnes, and when lifted into place, the meteorological mast will stand more than 100m above sea level, that being the hub height of the next-generation offshore wind turbines.

SeaRoc operations director Toby Mead added: “The Blyth offshore wind demonstration site is key to the future of offshore wind, both in the UK and globally.

“SeaRoc is very aware of this and believes there is enormous value for the offshore renewable sector in the development of the Narec site.”