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NAREC moves forward with £1/3bn Blyth offshore demonstration project to test next generation technology

The UK’s National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) has awarded a multi-million pound contract to SeaRoc to install its Offshore Anemometry Hub.

The £1/3bn research facility will be installed three nautical miles off the coast of Blyth, Northumberland next to the proposed nearest shore array of the 100MW Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site.   

The NAREC anemometry hub has been fabricated on the River Tyne and includes a high specification research platform fitted with the latest technologies for measuring wind resource and collecting data on marine conditions and marine life.

It will begin measuring the wind resource for the proposed Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site in October and this data will supplement an analysis of conditions undertaken over the last two years.  

“This is fantastic timing for the project and the new facility will provide greater certainty of wind resource to enable Narec to leverage the additional investment that will make it a world-leading proving ground for next generation and cost reducing offshore wind technologies,” said Andrew Mill, CEO of Narec. “Ours is the largest demonstration site in the UK and there is strong interest from prospective tenants to deploy prototypes as early as 2014.”

The hub requires a “one-off specialist engineering solution”, Mill added. A jack up vessel will be chartered by SeaRoc to load-out the tripod foundation, science platform and met mast tower sections from the Port of Tyne.  Fully assembled, the structure will weigh over 700 tonnes and when lifted into place the meteorological mast will stand over 100m above sea level – the hub height of the next generation offshore wind turbines. 

“The Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site is key to the future of Offshore Wind, both in the UK and globally,” said Toby Mead, Operations Director at SeaRoc. The Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site will provide the catalyst for taking next generation technologies through to full production.  By speeding up the accreditation process and building greater certainty in the investment markets, the aim is to introduce more market competition in the UK, reduce project risk and bring forward deployment timescales.

In May, Narec launched a procurement process to identify industry partners to collaborate on the build out of the site, which will comprise three lots, each lot comprising an array of five pods. Narec has already applied for the offshore permit and hopes for approval by the end of the year, allowing it to offer 15 pre-consented pods (water depths are representative of planned UK projects, ranging from 38-57m). A 99.9MW Grid connection offer has already been secured along with a Crown Estate Agreement for Lease for the whole site. 

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