UK’s first Offshore Wind Training Tower Opens to Students in North East England

Yesterday, David Kidney MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, and Helen Goodman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Work and Pensions, attended an event at Narec in Blyth, Northumberland to officially open a new 27 metre high training facility – the UK’s first Wind Turbine Training Tower.

The Training Tower is the result of a collaborative training partnership, backed by Regional Development Agency, One North East, between Northumberland College, Mainstream Renewable Power and Narec.  It is an open access facility, designed to allow education and training providers to deliver academic and industrial training programmes for technicians working in the wind industry and at height, both onshore and offshore.

The skills gap is a key issue for the UK as it ramps up wind generating capacity offshore over the next ten years and this collaboration will lead to an increase in the number of technicians suitably qualified to install, operate and maintain new and existing farms.  The Training Tower will help to develop the necessary skills competences required for working within the industry.

This latest infrastructure investment builds on Narec’s existing demonstration capabilities and will allow it to fully support the wind industry as it creates a global hub for offshore wind technology and wider renewables development, testing and demonstration.

Commenting on the announcement, Rachel Ellis-Jones, Principle and Chief Executive of Northumberland College said: “The Training Tower will help to ensure that the students on the wind technician training programme at Northumberland College are trained to British and European industrial standards. The specification of the tower and the equipment within it will also allow us to develop new training modules which will enable us to meet the skills needs of the wind energy industry.”

Andrew Mill, CEO at Narec said: “We are extremely proud today to be able to officially open the UK’s first Wind Turbine Training Tower at Narec and thank all partners involved in the project for their support in making the project a success.  The industry is predicting that technicians in their tens of thousands will be needed to install, operate and maintain new wind generating capacity offshore and the tower marks the first stage of the creation of a national training centre for the industry in North East England.”

Steve Clarke, UK Content Manager for Mainstream Renewable Power said: “From internal modelling of construction, operation and maintenance regimes, Mainstream Renewable Power has been aware for some time of a looming skills gap at wind technician level. Understanding too that training and up-skilling are not instant processes, we’re delighted with the effectiveness of the partnership and the timing of the training initiative to effectively design, procure and construct the training tower.  Achieving 60% UK content in the overall project is also personally very satisfying.”

Ian Williams, Director of Business and Industry at One North East said: “Firms across North East England have already won over £150m of offshore wind contracts with the biggest opportunities from the Round 3 development still to come. The creation of the wind turbine training tower and the training partnership developing between Narec, Northumberland College and Mainstream will ensure the North East has skills to capitalise on the £100bn investment that will be made over the next decade.

One North East established Narec to build on the region’s existing strengths in energy and engineering and our funding for the new tower, Narec’s 100m blade testing facility and drive train test rig, together with investment by firms like Clipper Windpower and JDR Cables have helped make North East England a leader in the development of Offshore Wind.”

David Kidney MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Fighting climate change and ensuring our energy security is a challenge, but it’s also a massive opportunity – an opportunity for skills, jobs and investment. Research and development, and giving people the skills to build offshore wind farms will be vital to keeping the UK ahead of the world.

The Minister applauded the new training tower at the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) in Blyth, as he watched students from Northumberland College demonstrate the facility. He said: “I’m really impressed with this brilliant new training facility. It will help people from the North East and across the UK to get the skills they need to help us generate more clean, green and secure wind energy.”

Helen Goodman MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We’re committed to a green future for the UK and that’s why 10,000 of our Future Jobs Fund jobs are in environmental sectors, renewable energy technologies and emerging low-carbon sectors. Young people are now getting back to work in these green jobs across every region in Britain.

Source: narec, March 18, 2010;

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