Royal Opening For Offshore Renewable Testing and Research Facilities

The National Renewable Energy Centre

By Sheena McGeorge | Dec 3, 2012

World-class onshore facilities developed by Narec engineers provide a catalyst for the global scale-up of offshore wind and tidal energy technologies. 

The Duke of York visited the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) today, to open two new facilities for the development of offshore renewable energy technologies.  The new offshore wind turbine blade and tidal turbine drive train testing facilities are the result of a combined investment of £33.6m by UK Government and the European Regional Development Fund.  His Royal Highness visited Narec as part of his on-going effort to recognise and support British excellence in science and engineering.

Andrew Mill, Chief Executive  at Narec, said: “Narec can be extremely proud of these two new facilities; they were conceived by our own engineers and have been delivered on time to meet market needs for testing larger offshore wind turbine blades and prototype tidal turbines.  Each facility is world-class in its own right and together with our existing capabilities they provide the most comprehensive facilities anywhere in the world to enable the scale-up of renewable energy technologies offshore.”

Both open-access facilities have been designed and commissioned for full-scale design verification and accelerated life testing of major components for research, development and certification purposes.

Completed in August of this year, the world’s largest open-access blade test facility is ready for commercial operations.  To accommodate the deflection on blades of up to 100m in length, construction of the 5,700m² steel frame structure incorporated techniques used during the building of the Beijing ‘Birds Nest’ Stadium.  It is 123m in length, with a 74m unsupported structured span, and has a 15m high concrete superstructure test hub. 

Nautilus, a 3MW capacity drive train testing facility for tidal turbines has recently completed its first client test for Atlantis Resources.  Accelerated life tests, conducted from the relative sanctuary of an onshore test facility, will significantly advance the development cycle for tidal turbines and give developers in the UK a real edge as the marine energy industry approaches commercialisation. 

The Atlantis programme at Narec included full load-running testing on its AR1000 turbine; by doing this Atlantis has secured performance data equivalent to several months of operation in the sea.

Andrew added: “The UK is the biggest market opportunity in the world for offshore renewables and the increased investment to come through the Levy Control Framework must be targeted at innovation in the supply chain which will reduce the cost of energy generation offshore and maximise the economic benefit and jobs created.  Our reliability, design verification and accelerated life testing facilities are attracting world-leading technology developers to the UK to get new technologies ready for deployment offshore more quickly, ironing out any problems in a controlled, low risk and confidential environment.” 

On his visit The Duke of York also took a tour of a third facility currently under construction for the testing of large offshore wind turbines.  The £45m facility will be operational in spring next year with a first customer commissioning to follow in the summer. 

Andrew Jamieson, newly-appointed Chief Executive of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult centre being established by the Technology Strategy Board, commented: “I welcome the opening of these first class test facilities.  I am looking forward to working with Narec and other innovation partners in the UK to accelerate the pace of technology commercialisation in offshore renewables; such new facilities coming online will be a great help in making that happen.”

Since construction began in February 2011, 400,000 man hours have been spent on the regeneration of Narec’s dock-side site in Blyth, Northumberland.  Lead construction contractor, Shepherd Construction has placed over half of their orders with businesses within 40 miles of the site and has employed 17 apprentices on the project.

For further information, please contact Steve Abbott, Corporate Affairs Manager on 01670 357 621 / 07766 498 068 or email steve.abbott@narec.co.uk