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The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult has started construction at its Blyth site to transform a former paper storage shed into a home for small scale innovation in the offshore renewables sector.
The new £6 million two-storey facility, to be named the Technology Development Centre (TDC), will provide testing, validation and demonstration capabilities for small and medium sized companies working on products and services for the offshore wind industry - adding to the globally unique range of services already available at ORE Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth.
Development of the facility is expected to generate as many as 30 new jobs, and it is anticipated that 100 new learners will be supported within the first five years of operation, including local apprentices and students from Northumbria University, who will have direct access to the building.
Tony Quinn, Director of Technology Development at ORE Catapult, said: “This is a hugely exciting project that adds to the fantastic testing facilities we have in Blyth - providing an incubator for new technologies capable of disrupting the offshore wind market, as well as creating jobs and learning opportunities through apprenticeships, and partnerships with higher education.
“We expect the facility will provide demonstrable benefits to the regional and national supply chain, generating significant growth in companies by helping to advance novel technologies, and will contribute to the conveyor belt of talent required to drive the growth of the offshore wind sector.”
The TDC will house a 1MW test rig, a mini electrical grid system where clients can test and certify the electrical compliance of their devices for any grid in the world, and a wind tunnel supplied by Northumbria University to study aerodynamics in offshore wind.
It will support companies accelerating the advancement of power conversion systems, rotating components, and hardware in the loop testing for energy storage systems such as hydrogen and battery storage.
The 1900sqm former storage facility and surrounding land was bought from the Port of Blyth with investment from the North of Tyne Combined Authority (£2m), the Blyth Town Deal (£2m), Innovate UK (£1.3m) and ORE Catapult (£600k).
Independent North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, said: “The new Technology Development Centre (TDC) will provide space for entrepreneurs, engineers, students and apprentices to test and refine their products. As an engineer, I know how important it is to fail - to fail better each time and ultimately develop the vital green technologies that will help us reach net zero.
“We’ve put £2 million into the TDC as part of my commitment to create good jobs and boost the regional economy. We’ve already invested £25 million in offshore wind power. This is the Green New Deal in action in the North East.”
Councillor Wojciech Ploszaj, cabinet member for Supporting Business and Opportunities at Northumberland County Council, and member of the Blyth Town Deal Board, added: “This is the latest in a number of exciting developments taking place across Blyth which are transforming the town and the county.
“We’re committed to making Blyth an international centre of renewable energy and advanced manufacturing growth and innovation and this new facility is another great step towards this.”
Exterior building work will include treating and painting the steel frame, new acoustic lined cladding, and installation of solar roof tiles, in partnership with Solar Capture Technologies. Inside the building, a new entrance will be installed, an operational area created, and office and workshop facilities will be constructed over the two floors. It is anticipated that the TDC will open in Winter 2024.