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North East’s offshore wind cluster writing next chapter of our industrial history

Posted on 30 March 2020

North East’s offshore wind cluster writing next chapter of our industrial history

JOANNE LENG, MBE Deputy Chair OF Energi Coast, explains how the industry is increasing its momentum

We are entering an exciting new chapter in the story of offshore wind and North East England is well-placed to play a significant part.

Following the UK Government’s announcement of the offshore wind sector deal last year, the industry is increasing its momentum.

Most significantly was the Government’s awarding of Contracts for Difference (CfD), which gave the go-ahead to six offshore wind projects including four off the North East England coast: Sofia and Dogger Bank A, B and C.

This marked a major step forward for the UK offshore wind industry, presenting tangible opportunities for UK suppliers, including those in the North East England cluster, which have the experience and expertise to support the delivery and operation of these new developments.

Within weeks of the CfD awards, the joint venture developers of the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, SSE Renewables and Equinor, unveiled GE Renewable Energy as its preferred turbine supplier paving the way for its 12MW Haliade-X wind turbine to be installed at Dogger Bank A, B and C

It was a clear signal of intent from the Dogger Bank Wind Farm developers to get off the mark quickly, which should continue throughout the lifespan of the project.

North East England has been at the heart of the offshore wind sector since its inception and has nurtured a well-developed and advanced cluster of supply chain companies that have been instrumental in providing technologies, skills, products and services to wind farm developments both in UK waters and in locations around the world.

NOF, as the energy sector’s business development experts, has worked exceptionally closely with companies that have diversified into the sector as well as those that have been established to specifically support offshore wind, supporting their development to further bolstering North East England’s integrated and diverse supply chain cluster.

Playing a key role in driving forward the ambitions of the North East England offshore wind industry, as well the sector deal, is the region’s cluster group Energi Coast.

Originally founded by NOF in 2011, Energi Coast has matured into a dynamic industry group that has a key role to play in driving forward the ambitions of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

One of eight UK offshore wind clusters, and is the most established in the country, the group also promotes the support available for suppliers to develop further to meet future technology requirements through the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership.

Energi Coast has set the blueprint for the regional clusters with 36 companies within its industry group directing its activities and promoting a region that contains hundreds of suppliers already involved in offshore wind or are looking to enter the sector.

The cluster is unique as it has both financial backing from industry as well as the region’s two Local Enterprise Partnerships, Tees Valley LEP/Combined Authority and North East LEP, plus it is engaging with other UK clusters to support their development.

The current offshore wind projects being developed in UK waters will have an important impact on the British supply chain, which is already a global leader. The wind farm developers are actively engaging with the extensive North East England supply chain, with the support of Energi Coast, to maximise on the skills and capabilities that are available in close proximity to their projects. In addition, the expertise of North East England companies will also benefit other emerging markets around the world that are looking to the UK to support the development of their supply chains and offshore wind developments.

Energi Coast visiting a number of international markets, such as the East Coast of the United States, Taiwan, Japan and Germany, on behalf of the North East England offshore wind industry will showcase the capabilities of the cluster and help establish new, mutually beneficial relationships.

The game changing innovation that businesses from our cluster continue to bring to the industry will enable offshore wind farm developers to deliver sustainable power generation for the long-term. It has also created a next generation sector for a region steeped in industrial history that is at the forefront of decarbonising the UK energy system and helping the UK achieve net zero.