Clipper Windpower Marine Lrd, a fully owned subsidiary of Clipper Windpower, Inc. has broken ground at its offshore wind turbine blade manufacturing facility in Neptune Estate, on Tyneside in the UK.

The ground breaking event, which took place on 18 February, was attended by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband.

The new factory, a 4000 sq m unit, is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2010. The site is owned by the City of Newcastle and is being developed by Shepherd Offshore Services. Assuming expansion of the offshore market is in line with UK government goals, and Clipper output of approximately one gigawatt per year is maintainrd, the factory is expected to employ a local workforce in excess of 500.

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. Its 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 technologies and components for multi-megawatt turbines. Accordingly, the grant will contribute toward some of the costs associated with the development of the Britannia factory. In April 2008, the Crown Estate announced its foward purchase of the first commercial prototype Britannia turbine.