The North East is to be the centre of a major £85million boost for renewable energy in the UK.

Development of the world’s most advanced wind turbine blade and drive train testing assets at Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland, has been given the green light, with £85.6m in funding from the UK Government.

The late-stage research and development facilities, designed for the testing of blades up to 150m and drive trains up to 23MW, combined with ORE Catapult’s extensive expertise in test and demonstration, will ensure that turbine manufacturers can accelerate their technology development in the UK for a new wave of larger, more efficient machines. Both blade and drive train capabilities will have the capacity for further expansion, to 180m and 28MW respectively, to meet future industry demand.

The new facilities will enable faster product development of turbines through test, validation and certification and are expected to prevent 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by accelerating deployment by a minimum of eight-months. They will also  create 30 new jobs in Blyth and support 5 PhDs a year.

Science, Innovation and Research Minister, Andrew Griffith, said: “Putting pioneering innovation at the heart of the UK’s transition to net zero is the key to protecting our environment in a way which continues to lift living standards.

“Our £86m funding will create highly skilled and highly paid new jobs that grow the North East and wider UK economies while pulling investment in by marking our country as a leader on technologies of the future and unashamedly open for business.

The Northern Echo: Inside the upgraded testing facilities in BlythInside the upgraded testing facilities in Blyth (Image: Submitted)

“At the same time, it strengthens the UK’s energy security in an uncertain world and helps us pivot towards the cleaner energy that can preserve our planet for generations to come.”

Dr Adam Staines, UKRI Infrastructure Portfolio Director, said: “UKRI continues to make the vital infrastructure investments that will underpin innovation and research throughout the UK for the coming decades.

"The project in Blyth demonstrates that investment in the right infrastructure can reduce CO2, support greater energy independence and drive economic benefits that build world-class places to live and work, as well. Working across UKRI with Innovate UK’s Catapult Network and the wider supply chain will help achieve these crucial objectives.”

The Northern Echo: Joanne LengJoanne Leng

Joanne Leng MBE, NOF Chief Executive said: “This is fantastic news for Blyth and indeed North East England as it will act as a significant driver for regional industrial and economic growth. It firmly positions the region at the forefront of the UK offshore wind industry, and as a global leader in technology development.

"The investment will drive jobs, investment and innovation in the regional supply chain involved in the Energi Coast cluster and ensures that North East England will continue to play a pivotal role in powering the next generation of offshore wind turbines and O&M activities.”

Andrew Jamieson, ORE Catapult Chief Executive, said: “This investment in truly world-leading capability will keep the UK at the forefront of offshore wind technology development. It will enable ORE Catapult to continue to deliver the most advanced research and development infrastructure and expertise to the offshore wind industry, capturing the jobs and economic growth from the transition to a Net Zero economy”.

Richard Sandford, Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council, said: “I’m delighted that ORE Catapult has deservedly secured this significant level of investment from UKRI’s Infrastructure Fund which will help to maintain Britain’s leading position in offshore wind. It will enable ORE Catapult to continue to develop state-of-the-art turbine technology, building on its excellent track record of leadership in innovation."

Dan McGrail, RenewableUK CEO, said: “Investing in ground-breaking research to develop the next generation of turbines is vital if this country is to retain its position as a global trailblazer in innovative offshore wind technology in the face of strong international competition. "

The Catapult’s Blyth facilities have been instrumental in the rapid progression of the UK offshore wind sector, testing the last five longest blades in the world consecutively and playing a pivotal role in proving the turbine technology for Dogger Bank, the giant wind farm being constructed off the Teesside coast that will be the world’s largest once it is completed in 2026.

Designs are well advanced with a view to commencing construction in the near future at the Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre of the new blade testing facility, alongside the existing 100m blade test facility, and the major upgrade to its 15MW drive train test facility, with both expected to be fully commissioned by 2028.