A NORTH-EAST offshore wind farm will be a pioneering blueprint in shaping the UK's power sector, a senior energy boss has told The Northern Echo.

Christian Egal, chief executive of EDF Energy Renewables, said the Teesside wind farm will be a crucial component in designing future projects.

The 27-turbine scheme, off Redcar's coast, is capable of supplying electricity to about 40,000 homes.

The company says the turbines, which form its first UK offshore development, will support 15 maintenance jobs in Hartlepool.

Mr Egal said it has no plans to expand the Redcar site.

However, he revealed it was keen to use its construction to strengthen the firm's presence in the energy industry, where it already operates a number of regional onshore wind farms.

He said: “This wind farm is a very important milestone for us.

“It is a prototype that we can use going forward, and the North-East is also an important place for us and key to our work.

“The UK is the leading country in terms of offshore wind, and half of the capacity worldwide is from the UK.

“As an island, the geography lends itself to the industry and the country and this region has highly-skilled workers with expertise picked up through the oil and gas sector.”

Mr Egal was speaking at the official opening of the project, which is the first to be built and entirely owned by EDF Group companies.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon and EDF Group chief executive Henri Proglio carried out a ceremony in Redcar to mark the occasion.

Mr Fallon, a former Darlington MP, said the project reinforced the North-East's position as an industrial leader.

He said: “Offshore wind is a key part of a more secure energy future, and it's very apt we're in the North-East.

“Teesside has always been in the vanguard of technological change and that is why EDF chose to be here.

“This is a tremendous feat of engineering, but more importantly than that, it is a tangible demonstration of green energy in action.”

Mr Proglio added: “Teesside reflects the scale and diversity of our commitment to the UK, which is our second largest market after France.

“This project shows we are committed to investing in new low carbon electricity.”

Construction of the turbines created work for a number of local firms, including Stokesley's MPI Offshore, which transported and installed parts, and Marske Site Services, which dropped 7,000 tonnes of County Durham rock to stop seabed erosion.

EDF Energy Renewables operates a number of North-East onshore wind farms, including developments in Sedgefield, Tow Law and Burnhope, near Lanchester, County Durham.

  • See Wednesday's 16-page Jobs and Business supplement for full reaction to the official opening of the Teesside wind farm.