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Mitsubishi enters UK offshore wind market

Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe intends to invest up to £100 million in an offshore wind turbine project in the UK under a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK Government.

The UK Government plans to provide grants of up to £30m to support the offshore wind project.

The offshore wind turbine project will be the first step towards the production of turbines for the next generation of offshore wind farms, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The UK has also announced new funding of £18.5m for an 100 MW offshore wind test site in the North East of England.

The site, off the coast near the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) in Blyth, Northumberland, will act as a technology demonstration and development platform for the next generation of large multi-megawatt offshore wind turbines.

Increasing UK offshore wind manufacturing

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson says: "Mitsubishi's investment in wind turbine R&D and the creation of 200 highly skilled jobs is great news for our future plans in low carbon, high technology industries. The UK is now well placed to manufacture the turbines needed for the next generation of offshore wind farms. We will continue to work with Mitsubishi to secure production in the UK.

“I’m delighted that we are also supporting the wind test site in the North East. Coming on top of funding for Narec announced in the Pre-Budget Report, it further strengthens the North East’s position as a leader in the offshore wind farm sector.”

Senior Executive Vice President Mr Ichiro Fukue and MPSE CEO Mr Akio Fukui add: “Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe is delighted to be working in partnership with the UK Government to create this exciting opportunity for the development of world-class offshore wind technology in the UK.

“MHI’s Ship Building division is interested in entering the offshore wind installation and operation and maintenance vessel market. We have been working with UKTI for some time and we look forward to further growing our offshore wind business with UK-based partner and supply chain businesses from 2010, bringing much needed competition into the offshore wind turbine supply market, and economic benefit to the UK.”

The offshore wind turbine project will have three phases:

  • Prototype assembly, onshore and offshore testing of Mitsubishi's 6 MW second generation technology;
  • Development of third generation offshore wind technology with the establishment of a UK-based Mitsubishi Offshore Wind Centre for Advanced Technology; and
  • The design and development of large composite offshore wind turbine blades, and associated production techniques

The Narec offshore test facility

The 100 MW offshore wind test facility at Narec will comprise 20 pre-consented ‘pods’ for deploying offshore wind prototype or demonstration turbines and foundations.

The pods will be in four rows, increasing in distance offshore and with water depths of 15, 35, 45 and 55 m to allow testing of alternative installation and foundation types.

The Strategic Investment Fund will provide the primary infrastructure for the offshore wind test facility and will fast track the near shore development. The site will provide conditions representative of typical Round 3 offshore wind projects.

Andrew Mill, CEO of Narec, says: “[The] announcement will enable Narec to progress with our plans to deliver a 100 MW grid connected offshore demonstration platform, with the capacity to accommodate up to 20 large-scale prototypes.

“The facility will be unique in global R&D terms, enabling manufacturers and wind farm developers to identify best practice approaches across the supply chain for the development, deployment and O&M of new turbine technologies, which will be most pertinent to the Crown Estate Round 3 Programme.

“It will complement our existing test capabilities and the planned expansion of major component testing facilities, offering the industry a truly world class offering for the proving out of technologies in next generation machines.”

BWEA welcomes announcements

British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) Chief Executive Maria McCaffery says: “BWEA is delighted with today’s announcement which underlines the keen interest of major international players in the UK wind energy programme. This tremendous commitment from Mitsubishi and the UK Government follows last week’s major announcement of the start of the new Clipper Windpower factory in Newcastle upon Tyne, which will be home to the largest wind turbine blade in the world.”

With several developments in the offshore and onshore wind industry in the UK over the last year, McCaffery concludes: “It is not an exaggeration to speak of offshore wind as the ‘new North Sea oil’.”

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