Ambitious plans to keep the UK at the forefront of technology development in offshore wind have been given high level approval with the announcement that UKRI (UK Research & Innovation) will provide £85.6m of capital funding for the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult to expand and upgrade its testing facilities and enable the evolution of the next generation of wind turbines in the UK.

The late-stage research and development facilities, designed for the testing of blades up to 150 m and drive trains up to 23 MW, combined with ORE Catapult’s expertise in test and demonstration, are intended to ensure that turbine manufacturers can accelerate their technology development in the UK with reduced risk and enhanced reliability for a new wave of larger, more efficient machines. Both blade and drive train capabilities are expected to increase capacity, up to 180 m and 28 MW respectively, to meet future industry demand.

The new facilities will enable faster product development of turbines through test, validation and certification and are expected to prevent 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by accelerating deployment by a minimum of eight-months. They will also support the growth of UK supply chains, and provide critical research infrastructure to support inward investment into the UK wind industry. The investment in research will create 30 new jobs in Blyth and support 5 doctorates a year.

Designs are well advanced, with a view to commencing construction in the near future at the Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, of the new blade testing facility, alongside the existing 100 m blade test hall, and the major upgrade to its 15 MW drive train test facility, with both expected to be fully commissioned by 2028.