Super wind turbine testing facility to be built at ORE Catapult in Blyth

Funding in the new facility in Blyth will help slash CO2 emissions. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A wind turbine test facility dubbed the most advanced of its kind in the world will be built in Northumberland as part of an £86m investment in green energy.

Based at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre, in Blyth, the government-funded facility will test, validate and certify turbines in a move which will slash CO2 emissions, the government announced on Tuesday (14 May).

It is believed the research and development site will prevent 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions – twice the amount emitted by the population of Newcastle in one year – over an eight-and-half-month period, by getting more of the largest and most efficient wind turbines onto the market quicker.

This means more of the energy keeping the lights on and heating homes is from an eco-friendly source.

Science, Research and Innovation Minister, Andrew Griffith, said: “Pioneering innovation is the key to safeguarding the environment we live in while maintaining a high quality of life and remaining unashamedly open for business.

“Our £86m funding will create highly skilled and highly paid new jobs that grow the north-east and wider UK economies. It will also bring in investment by marking our country as a leader in technologies of the future as well as a global capital for wind power.

“At the same time this innovation will strengthen the UK’s energy security in an uncertain world and help us pivot towards the cleaner energy that can preserve our planet for generations to come.”

The site will test wind turbines blades three times the length of the Angel of the North's wingspan. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The funding will go towards building a 150-metre blade test facility that will replicate the harsh conditions at sea, with potential for future expansion to 180 metres, with the existing 100-metre blade test facility being repurposed to increase capacity.

This will mean the facility is capable of testing the largest blades currently on the market and in near-future development.

It is billed as a support for the growth of UK supply chains and the industry’s goal of 60% of offshore wind farm content coming from the UK.

The government said it would also encourage investment in the country’s fast-growing offshore wind sector, benefiting businesses and in turn the economy, while supporting the UK’s commitment to reaching net zero by 2050.

It will also help to upgrade the drive train test facility, which tests turbine generators, currently operating at 15 megawatts (MW), to 23MW with a future pathway to 28MW should the industry require it over time – ramping up the power generated and helping to take wind turbine technology to the next level.

The facility – the only site in the world testing both turbine blades and drive trains – will create at least 30 new jobs in Blyth and support five PhDs a year, opening doors for highly skilled and highly paid local jobs to help level up the UK.

The facility at ORE Catapult in Blyth is being billed as the most advanced of its kind. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

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."

Testing the larger blades and more powerful drive trains before the turbines are put to work offshore helps manufacturers accelerate introduction of the new wave of larger, more efficient machines, which generate more power and reduce the chance of failure in practice.

Designs are well advanced with a view to commencing construction this summer and to the major upgrade to its 15MW drive train test facility, with both expected to be fully commissioned by 2028.

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