The factory will be used to develop and build blades for the ‘Britannia Project’, a 10 MW offshore wind turbine prototype under development by Clipper. The prototype is scheduled for deployment in late 2012, and is among the largest wind turbines under development in the wind industry. The blades will be 72 metres long and weigh over 30 tonnes.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change grant of £4.46 million was awarded to Clipper in September 2009. The grant is intended to accelerate development and demonstration of offshore wind power technologies and components for multi-megawatt turbines. Accordingly, the grant will contribute toward some of the costs associated with the development of the Britannia offshore wind turbine blade and factory. In April 2008, the Crown Estate announced its purchase of the first commercial prototype Britannia turbine.
James G.P. Dehlsen, Chairman of Clipper, said: “Today marks an exciting and important milestone in achieving the Britannia Project blade requirements. Over the next few years, with the development of the Britannia turbine the UK will benefit through the supply of electricity based on its abundant offshore wind energy resource, and also with economic activity related to turbine manufacturing, offshore installation, and long term operations and servicing. The offshore wind market in the UK is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting sectors in the global renewable energy industry.”
Offshore wind energy projects under development total nearly half the current global offshore installed capacity (according to the BWEA).
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “I welcome Clipper’s ground-breaking announcement to build the largest wind turbine blade in the world on the banks of the Tyne. The UK is a global leader in offshore wind power, and the North East is at the forefront in providing the skills, expertise and enterprise to capitalise on this rapidly expanding market, which has the potential to create thousands of future green jobs.”
Regional Development Agency One North East has to date invested £2.1million in land remediation to enable this factory to be built at the former Neptune Yard. This project continues the Agency’s long-term strategy to make the North East a world-leader in the offshore wind sector.
Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of One North East, said: “Today marks the first stage in the creation of what we believe will be thousands of new manufacturing jobs in the offshore wind sector, founded on the North East’s skills and ready-made sites. It also marks the culmination of the Agency’s long-term strategy to develop this industry here. This announcement is a significant step forward for our vision to establish North East England as a European hub for the fabrication, assembly and delivery of offshore wind turbines.”
Freddy Shepherd, Director of Shepherd Offshore, said: “We are delighted that such a prestigious company as Clipper has chosen to base this manufacturing facility at our Renewable Energy Park. We are helping to place the River Tyne and the North East of England at the centre of this dynamic new industry, which is creating new employment for the region that will last for decades to come.”
Nick Brown MP, Minister for the North East and Member of Parliament for Newcastle East and Wallsend, said: "This is the start of a whole new industry for east Newcastle. It will provide secure employment for generations to come and put our community at the forefront of new green technologies. This is a great example of the public and private sector working together. I warmly welcome clipper to East Newcastle’s family of corporate citizens."