AN engineering company on the banks of the River Tees has won a landmark deal to help lead the latest revolution in the offshore industry.
Tag Energy Solutions near Billingham has launched a recruitment drive for an initial 70 engineers to build steel sections of Eon's new wind farm off the Humber Estuary in East Yorkshire.
It is the first contract of its type awarded to a British company and represents a massive coup for Tag which has been in the hunt for a major order since its plant opened in summer 2011.
Preparation work has started for the manufacture of 16 steel foundation poles called monopiles - each 60 metres long and weighing 1,000 tonnes.
Neither Eon nor Tag, which will also make the transition pieces that form the base upon which the wind turbines stand, declined to reveal the value of the project but The Northern Echo understands it is worth more than ten million pounds.
Alex Dawson, chief executive of Tag, said: "This is the breakthrough deal we have been looking for. It is superb news for us and for the region.
"A deal of this size will give us the chance to prove our capabilities on a completely different level from anything we have done so far. After this we hope to scale up even further and start tendering for projects in the £100m bracket."
Mr Dawson hopes to recruit an additional 40 workers during the year, taking the firms total workforce, which had dipped to the mid twenties last year when orders were scarce, to about 140.
"To keep everyone on the books we need to win another order of this type or an even bigger one. We can't rest on out laurels.
He added: "I remember as a trainee engineer being around at the start of the oil & gas boom and this feels the same. The potential for offshore renewables is enormous and we aim to play as big a part as possible in the latest energy revolution.
"Eon has demonstrated its confidence in Tag Energy Solutions and British manufacturing and we are very proud to be part of one of the country's flagship wind farm developments."
The contract is planned to be completed by the end of the year.
Tony Cocker, chief executive of Eon UK said that it was "just the beginning of our organisations working together."
Edward Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said last night: "I want to congratulate Tag Energy Solutions on becoming the first UK manufacturer to secure a contract of this kind for a wind farm in British Waters. I hope that they are the first of many.
"The development of a thriving UK supply chain is vital to support our rapidly-growing offshore wind industry. The Government is working closely with industry to help fulfil its ambition to source at least half of all project content from within the UK. This will help build the lasting legacy of a strong domestic offshore wind manufacturing capability."
Construction on Eon's Humber Gateway is underway, with the first foundations expected this summer, and completion due in 2015. Bosses said it could generate up to 219MW of electricity, enough energy to power up to 170,000 homes.
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