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3 minute read - 16th May 2024

£86m to be invested in offshore wind turbine research facility

Ambitious plans to keep the UK at the forefront of technology development in offshore wind have been given the green light, with the announcement that UKRI will provide £85.6m of capital funding for the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to expand and upgrade its offshore wind testing facilities in Blyth and enable the evolution of the next-generation of wind turbines in the UK.

The late-stage research and development facilities, designed for the testing of blades up to 150m and drivetrains up to 23MW, combined with ORE Catapult’s expertise in test and demonstration, will ensure that turbine manufacturers can accelerate their technology development in the UK with reduced risk and enhanced reliability for a new wave of larger, more efficient machines. Both blade and drivetrain 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 – meaning more of the energy keeping our lights on and heating our homes is from an eco-friendly source. They will also support the growth of UK supply chains, and provide critical research infrastructure to support inward investment into the UK wind industry. They will also create 30 new jobs in Blyth and support 5 PhDs a year.

UKRI is investing £85.6m in the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to expand and upgrade its offshore wind testing facilities in Blyth / Picture: ORE Catapult

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Andrew Griffith, science, innovation and research minister, 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. 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, added: “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.”

Andrew Jamieson, ORE Catapult chief executive, concluded: “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.”

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

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