Wind of change as new facility is completed

The Development Team of the New 100m Blade Test Facility at the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec).
The Development Team of the New 100m Blade Test Facility at the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec).

A NEW state-of-the-art facility which will be one of the world’s leading sites in the testing of wind turbine blades has been completed in Blyth.

The 5,700m² steel frame structure has been handed over to the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) by contractor Shepherd Construction.

Bosses at Narec are currently investing more than £80m in world class facilities for the accelerated testing of offshore renewable energy technologies, with the facility being the second of three structures to be completed.

The new blade test facility will be the largest in the world and has been designed to test the longer blades being developed for larger offshore turbines.

Officials say it will add significantly to Narec’s existing capability for testing blades up to 50 metres in length.

Andrew Mill, chief executive at Narec, said: “This is a unique facility which can accommodate the largest blades being developed for the offshore wind industry.

“Shepherd Construction has worked with contractors and our own blade specialists to deliver a bespoke solution.

“Narec will now commission the new facility ready for commercial operations at the start of next year.”

The unique building – which at 123-metres long is just three metres shorter than the Gateshead Millennium Bridge – creating some headaches for staff at Shepherd Construction, who also built the test hub to support the blades during testing.

Construction engineers had to find a solution to the problem of the building withstanding the forces applied during testing and the vibrations created, resulting in a 15-metre high concrete superstructure with two huge rings.

The top ring will accommodate blades up to 100m wile the smaller bottom ring will be for blades with a smaller diameter.

Andrew Constantine, commercial director for Shepherd Construction, said: “As there are currently no other facilities of this scale in operation, the project team has had to come up with a unique solution necessitating precisely calculated tolerances that will enable the structure to withstand the rigours of testing.

“This makes it all the more worthwhile to see the blade test facility handed over and on its way to helping the UK further advance the offshore renewable energy.”

The new facility will provide an independent and confidential environment to accelerate the development of new blade designs before they are taken offshore.

Turner & Townsend provided both project management and cost management services.

Associate director Jonathan Lunn added: “We are extremely pleased to have successfully managed the completion of the blade test facility.

“The unique nature and physical magnitude of the facility has required an extensive mix of both precision engineering and traditional construction expertise.”