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New & Renewable Energy
The new and renewable energy industry has the potential to generate around £2 billion worth of economic growth in North East England over 20 years.
The area region has ground-breaking activities taking place in offshore wind power, biofuels, photovoltaic (PV) solar cell technology, hydrogen fuel cells, and wave and tidal power.
A formidable partnership between universities, businesses, regional development agency One North East and the public sector is creating a unique low carbon industrial infrastructure across the entire sector.
The New and Renewables Centre of Excellence (Narec), in Blyth, offers world-class testing facilities for a range of projects in wind, wave and tidal power. It is also involved with the area’s universities in research on advanced PV technologies.
A second Centre of Excellence, the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) at Wilton in Tees Valley, is involved in cutting edge R&D projects in biofuels, fuel cells and other areas of biotechnology offering enormous opportunities for the future.
Where wind power is concerned, for example, the area provides the European base for Clipper Windpower, which has developed the world’s largest offshore wind turbine.
Another world first is the INEOS Bio energy from waste plant that is being developed in Tees Valley – a pioneering second generation biofuel refinery.
A major project on the PV front is the creation of solar cell canopies by Romag, in Durham, for use in the electric car charging points network being rolled out across the North East.
"Most of the offshore wind is going to be in the North Sea, and so the east coast is where you need to be. The North East is looking very interesting, particularly where you've got the skills already there, you've got Blyth, the training on offer at Northumberland University, the New and Renewable Energy Centre, Clipper Wind. There is a nascent cluster already there," Dr Gordon Edge, BWEA
New & Renewable Energy
Areas of Expertise
With its plentiful sources of hydrogen from chemical complexes, North East England has been developing new fuel cell technologies through a growing cluster of companies and research units.
The firms include spin-outs from universities, large blue-chip companies and specialist technical businesses. The potential of the technology is vast and the cluster development organisation, Fuel Cells North East, has over 130 member firms and academic organisations.
A fuel cell developed with the support of the test stations and laboratories of the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), has been demonstrated with great success in the world’s first hydrogen powered lighthouse, at South Gare at the mouth of the River Tees.
Another pioneering use of fuel cells is for road signs. Dorman Varitext, a manufacturer of light emitting diode (LED) signs has created a hydrogen powered example at the iconic Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge – the first cell of its kind in everyday operation in the UK.
Hydrogen need not be the only fuel as Dorman Varitext, with the technical help from CPI, has also been carrying out R&D on methanol and liquid-fuel cell powered signs.
Variations under development by the company, now part of the Unipart group, are innovative vehicle-activated speed signs and others that could warn of motorway closures.
There is great interest in the North East’s automotive industry in the future potential of hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles.
Huge offshore wind farms planned for the North Sea have placed North East England in an ideal position to manufacture large numbers of turbines for these farms.
The world’s largest offshore turbine has been created by American group Clipper Windpower through its Britannia project on the Northumberland coast at Blyth.
Clipper chose Blyth as the site for its European development centre because of the proximity in the town of the New and Renewables Centre of Excellence (Narec).
Established with the help of One North East, this centre has world-class testing facilities for wind turbine blades and electrical components. It also has R&D teams working on wind power related projects, and close links with researchers at Durham and Newcastle Universities.
Clipper has recently announced that it is to develop a turbine assembly plant at a site on the banks of the River Tyne, with backing worth £4.2 million from the UK Government.
Among the several hundred companies that could take part in the supply chain of a scaled-up wind turbine industry in the area, is Windsund International in County Durham which manufactures turbine components.
Evolving Generation (EG), a spin-off company from Durham University, is developing a generator for large, direct-drive turbines.
On a different front TNEI, which has its HQ in Newcastle, is managing a project for Tesco to install micro wind turbines at all the group’s suitable depots and supermarkets across the UK.
North East England has a powerful reputation for research in photovoltaic (PV) technology and is home to businesses at the forefront of solar cell manufacturing.
One of the most innovative is Romag, a specialist glass maker that has become a leading developer of solar panels incorporated into the glass facades of buildings. Its prestigious installations include the Eden Project in Cornwall, St Pancras Eurostar Terminal in London and Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport.
The company’s latest innovative product is PowerPack, a solar canopy for electric car charging points that incorporates its PowerGlaz PV panels in the actual glass roofs of the canopies.
At Durham University cutting edge research is being carried out on ultra thin film PV cells.
The Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC) at NetPark in Durham has clean rooms and laboratories for developing and testing PV products using very cheap and easily produced printed polymer circuits.
The Photovoltaics Application Centre at Northumbria University has expertise in areas such as the incorporation of solar cells in the structures of buildings and monitoring the performance of cells.
And researchers at Narec in Northumberland are focusing their work on the development of crystalline silicon solar cells.
On the supply front, Winsund International in Durham is making components for PV systems in addition to parts for wind turbines.
A number of companies in North East England are involved in the fields of nuclear plant decommissioning, new-build stations, and technologies such as those involved in waste management.
Aker Kvaerna, based in Stockton, is a leading player in decommissioning and nuclear technologies. It is for example part of a joint venture, ACTtiv Nuclear, that has the contract for a £21 million decommissioning project at Sellafield.
Work Aker Kvaerner carried out at the Trawsfynydd power station in North Wales has been recognised for construction excellence.
Studsvik UK, in Gateshead, is a leading player in waste treatment as well as decommissioning. It is one of the companies involved in running the North East branch of the Nuclear Institute.
Another Stockton firm, Darchem Engineering, has announced a £4 million expansion of its facilities to compete for contracts for its nuclear-related operations.
Durham based business development organisation NOF Energy, which has around 300 member companies involved in the offshore oil and gas industry, has highlighted the fact that more than half its members now see the nuclear sector as a high priority.
It is championing the opportunities for North East firms to supply products and services needed in the development of new nuclear plants.
Wave and Tidal
The focus for leading edge R&D into wave and tidal turbines in North East England is at Narec in Northumberland, where it has excellent testing facilities.
These are being put to good use by two innovative companies, Ocean Flow Energy, based at the mouth of the River Tyne at North Shields, and marine renewables specialist Trident Energy.
Ocean Flow has developed its Evopod tidal turbines with the support of grant funding from One North East. It has worked with Newcastle University, the North East Business Innovation Centre and Narec to test and refine the machines.
Evopod is a device mounted on pods that generates electricity from tidal streams, ocean currents and the flow of water through river estuaries. It can operate in deep water sites while remaining secure from severe wind and waves at the sea surface.
Although Trident is based in Southend, it has chosen Narec and the Northumberland coast as the place to do simulation tests and tank trials of its wave power prototype generator, and then full sea trials of its rig-mounted machine. These have been a big success.
Durham University’s School of Engineering has meanwhile been developing technologies for wave energy generators.
One of the most exciting developments in the biofuel industry has been the decision by INEOS Bio to develop a second generation bio-ethanol plant at Seal Sands in Tees Valley – the first in the world of its kind.
The plant will use only biodegradable household and industrial waste which would otherwise go to landfill.
One of its sources of raw material could be waste treated by Graphite Resources, using a unique process at a facility it has built in Gateshead.
With £2.2 million support from One North East and the UK Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change, INEOS Bio is building a prototype plant to trial its cutting edge fermentation process using special bacteria.
It is hoped that if the plant – which will also produce surplus electricity - proves commercially viable a full scale £200 million bio-refinery will be built alongside the prototype by 2015.
The bio-ethanol it produces will be combined with conventional car fuel to create ‘green’ petrol.
Tees Valley is already the site of Europe’s largest biofuel refinery, built by Ensus at a cost of £300 million at Wilton. Each year, from locally grown wheat, this can produce over 400 million litres of bio-ethanol, 300,000 tonnes of high protein animal feed and 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide for use in soft drinks and food production.
Surplus electricity from the site supplies energy to other plants at Wilton.
A strong cluster of consultancies with expertise in the renewable energy sector are operating in North East England to cater for the extensive range of activities now taking place in the area.
The largest engineering consultancy is AMEC, which employs over 1,000 people and is a global market leader in gas storage and the design and construction of energy processing plants.
A major company involved in design, planning, engineering and technical consultancy is Arup, which has a large presence in the area.
Entec has a sizeable office in Newcastle and is one of the biggest UK environmental and engineering consultancies.
Hexham-based Econnect specialises in connecting electricity generating plants and other facilities to the National Grid.
TNEI, which has its HQ in Newcastle, has extensive consultancy involvement in renewable energy installations, the technologies involved, software development, and cultural and strategic issues.
Winsund International and the PETEC technology development centre, both in County Durham, offer consultancy services on the installation of photovoltaic systems.
PB Power, part of the international Parsons Brinckerhoff group, has one of its main offices in Newcastle, and its infrastructure consultancy work includes all aspects of power generation, transmission and distribution.
New & Renewable Energy
Key Facts & Figures
- The world’s largest offshore wind turbine has been developed in North East England.
- Two Centres of Excellence – Narec and CPI - are helping to successfully commercialise cutting edge renewable energy technologies.
- Narec has facilities for testing the largest wind turbine blades in the world.
- Solar cell canopies could power charging points being installed across the North East for electric cars.
- Europe’s largest biofuel refinery, built by Ensus, is in the Tees Valley.
- The world’s first energy from waste plant using second generation biotechnology is to be developed in Tees Valley to produce biofuel and generate electricity.
- Graphite Resources in Gateshead has built a plant that can treat municipal waste and turn it into a raw material used to make biofuel.
- In 2007, South Gare lighthouse in Redcar, originally built in 1884, became the first hydrogen fuel cell-powered lighthouse in the UK and lights a major shipping lane into Teesport.
- More than 300 engineering companies could contribute to the supply chain for the renewable energy sector.
- Northumbria University has the first ever building to be clad on an entire side by solar cells.
New & Renewable Energy
Narec, North East England’s Centre of Excellence in New and Renewable Energy, is dedicated to giving organisations in this sector the support they need to transform winning ideas into commercial businesses.
The team provide specialist expertise in renewable energies, wind power, photovoltaics and sub-sea power.
Facilities on offer to investors include:
- The world's largest wind turbine blade testing facility and prototype development techniques to support wind turbine manufacturers and developers who are creating the next generation of wind turbine technology
- The UK’s only independent Photovoltaic R&D Laboratory, combining small scale manufacturing and solar cell process development
- The Clothier Laboratory site offering a full range of state-of-the-art high voltage testing services, currently being used to test leading-edge Combined Heat and Power (CHP) biofuel systems
- Cutting-edge sub-sea testing facilities, which enable the full simulation of the new generation of mobile production platforms
- Tidal and wave energy testing systems providing unparalleled facilities for the marine renewable sector
The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is an internationally renowned R&D facility for the Advanced Manufacturing and Chemicals sector.
CPI’s pioneering work in low carbon energy from hydrogen fuel cells offers companies, in the new and renewable energy market, access to world class testing facilities and technical expertise, supporting innovation and commercialisation in this area, with recent success including the world's first hydrogen-powered lighthouse.
The North East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) is a stand-alone company, limited by guarantee, which was created and is owned by its member companies to represent the companies and supply chain of the Process Industry in the region.
NEPIC, which is lead by senior industrialists, has a reputation for delivery of projects that enhance the sustainability of the Process Industry Sector. These projects are identified, developed and delivered through a series of Thrust Teams set up by the industry.
- Growth & Investment
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- Engineering for Process
- Integrated Manufacturers Forum
- Transport Biofuels
In all of these areas significant results have been achieved through the cluster providing a conduit for the industry to collaborate, identify issues and work together to address them.
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