US wind turbine manufacturer Clipper Windpower yesterday opened a new Centre of Excellence for Offshore Wind at Blyth in North East England, where it plans to begin work on the world's largest offshore wind turbine.
Clipper's "Britannia Project" to develop a 7.5Mw turbine will be undertaken with support from the Blyth-based New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC). It has secured £5m in funding from the One NorthEast development agency.
Business and enterprise secretary John Hutton said that the project was further evidence of the UK's emergence as a key player in the burgeoning renewable energy technology market.
"A recent report from Ernst & Young showed that the UK has moved up from fifth to second in the world for attractiveness in new renewable investment," he said. "Behind this is the Government's determination to bring down planning barriers and target support at marine and emerging renewables."
James G P Dehlsen, chairman and chief executive of Clipper, said that the decision to locate in the North East had been informed by the government's long-term commitment to generating 20 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020, as well as the UK's position as potentially the largest source of offshore wind energy in Europe.
The One NorthEast development agency said that the region was rapidly emerging as a major hub for renewable energy companies. It added that the NaREC would provide the Britannia Project with a support package including access to engineering expertise and test laboratories, while engineering work will be shared between Clipper's US sites and its operations in Blyth.
Funding provided by One NorthEast will also support the development of Clipper's turbine supply chain and related manufacturing facilities, it added.
"The potential for collaboration with the local companies with skills and capacity for turbine component production will be a significant advantage as turbine manufacturing gets underway," said Dehlsen. "We have seen excellent regional university resources specialised in offshore energy, particularly through the Marine Design Centre's expertise in marine technology and science."
The announcement comes days after final approval was granted for the Thames Array offshore wind farm, which is expected to provide enough energy to power a quarter of London's homes.
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