Port operator plans wind turbine hub at Hartlepool

First published in Business The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

PORT operator PD Ports is aiming to turn Hartlepool into a centre for offshore wind industries.

The owner of Hartlepool Dock and Teesport wants to divide the two into separate hubs, with the former servicing the renewable energy sector, particularly offshore wind, while the latter continues to provide services such as container transport for the retail sector.

There is around 120 acres of available land at its Hartlepool site, which is already home to JDR Cables, a world leader in producing turbine cables and Heerema, which has diversified into fabricating turbine substations.

Paul Barker, development director at PD Ports, which is a founding member of Chain Reaction, a group working to build a cluster of excellence in the renewables energy field, said the company was already talking with companies working in the industry with the aim of bringing them to Hartlepool.

He said: "We have had some reasonably detailed discussions with people.

"We have had discussions with turbine manufacturers, substructure manufacturers, the developers of the wind farms and we have obviously got cables. We are keeping in touch with everybody."

"We are looking to make Hartlepool a hub for these industries.

"Some of the ports are trying to be everything to everybody. We will push Hartlepool at the renewables sector, mainly offshore wind and then look at Teesport for what it is doing now such as retail.

"We can say that port does this, this port does that."

Mr Barker believed having renewables on the Tees Valley coastline would add to a mix that already includes oil, gas and nuclear.

"It is trying to keep the glass full with different bottles," he said.

"It is always going to be a basket of different energies, there is no silver bullet."

He believed that because the industry was still developing it presented a wide range of opportunities for North-East firms, from deals to construct the turbine blades to fabricators to deliver the huge underwater bases.

He said: "Everybody knows about the tower and the bit above the water but fewer people understand there is as much below the surface."

The North-East is already establishing itself as a centre for the offshore wind industry with TAG Energy Solutions recently opening a plant producing turbine foundations at Haverton Hill, Billingham,

Tekmar Group, based in Newton Aycliffe, producing cable protection devices, Clipper Windpower, which is developing the world's largest turbine blade at a £25m plant near Newcastle, and Europe's leading wind turbine testing factory at the New and Renewable Energy Centre, in Northumberland.

Although PD Ports does not have a formal agreement with such companies Mr Barker was keen to highlight their presence to firms in the sector considering locating to Hartlepool.

He said: "Although there is no formal agreement it strengthens my argument.

"I was at an offshore wind conference with 15 speakers and a third of them were from Tees Valley companies. I think that answers the question as to what this area can do."

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