ETI Supports UK’s Offshore Wind Industry by Investing in World Leading Offshore Test Facility at Narec


The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has announced that it will invest £25m into a state-of-the art, open access, wind turbine drive train test rig seen as crucial for the continued success and further expansion of the UK’s offshore wind industry.

The indoor rig will be sited at Narec in Blyth, Northumberland and will be capable of testing complete drive trains and nacelles up to 15 MW. It should be available for commercial testing from June 2013.

The ETI is investing £25m in the Narec facility, by providing funding to a consortium of Converteam and MTS Systems Corporation for the design, development and commissioning of the test rig, a world leading large-scale engineering project.

The UK has Europe’s biggest wind resource, but until now, has had no dedicated full turbine test facility.

The consortium will design and deliver the turbine test rig for the Narec site in Blyth, Northumberland, with Converteam, who have experience of developing test rigs, providing technical leadership and project management from their site in Rugby, Warwickshire.

The test rig is capable of providing 15MW of power, as well as creating the dynamic conditions that wind turbines would expect to see when installed offshore. It will be larger and more complex than anything currently available and will help manufacturers increase the reliability of their new turbines, with the benefit to consumers of reduced energy costs.

The rig has been designed to allow the whole turbine nacelle to be tested, in a purpose built, onshore test facility before being exposed to the challenging offshore conditions. This will help reduce the technical and commercial risks of mass production and deployment.

The harsh operating conditions and logistics of operating and maintaining machines far from shore drives up the generating cost of offshore wind. Drive train failures have a significant impact on the economics of offshore installations

Preparatory construction and infrastructure works have already commenced at Narec in Blyth, ahead of the start of building construction later this year.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Combined with our strong manufacturing and maritime heritage, the UK is well positioned to take advantage of the global shift to clean energy. To do that we need substantial investment, and today’s announcement of this state-of-the-art test facility shows our determination to support the renewable energy sector that is helping to reshape the British economy for the future.”

ETI Chief Executive Dr David Clarke said: “This is one of the biggest projects the ETI has been involved with to date and highlights the importance of ensuring offshore wind can be used as a sustainable and affordable energy source for the UK.

“The ETI is accelerating the deployment of technologies that will help the UK meet its 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets and develop the UK industrial base. This is a world leading engineering project that will benefit manufacturers, consumers and the UK economy as a whole by helping to increase the reliability and reduce the costs of electricity from offshore wind.

“Larger, more powerful wind turbines will need more rigorous testing and development before they are deployed in large numbers off the UK’s coasts. It is faster, cheaper and more effective to do this on land in a controlled, indoor, world-class facility than it is to try and do it for the first time out in the North Sea.

“This is a major step in establishing the UK as a leader in the wind turbine industry.”

 Andrew Mill, CEO of Narec, said: “Narec is extremely pleased that the Energy Technologies Institute has chosen to invest in the new 15MW drive train test facility.

“Narec is looking forward to working with the appointed consortium to deliver a world leading asset which will generate a substantial return for the UK economy by assisting the acceleration of the deployment of large scale offshore wind energy.

“Demand for the facility is high with a number of wind turbine manufacturers already having made a clear commitment to undertake accelerated lifetime testing of their prototype machines in the 5-10MW range at Narec from 2013.

Narec is providing the route to market for manufacturers looking to sell their wind turbines into the UK for Crown Estate Round 3 developments. Our new 100m wind turbine blade testing facility and a 3MW drive train test facility for both wind and marine applications will be commissioned next year. This 15MW facility will be operational in summer 2013 and we hope to have the first deployments at our proposed offshore demonstration facility in 2014.

“Together, Narec’s unique portfolio of independent test and development assets provides the foundation to enable OEMs to demonstrate improved performance and reliability. This will grow the confidence in the sector which is required for future expansion in line with the government’s economic and climate change targets.”

Paul English, Business Director at Converteam said: “We’re in the business of power conversion. In offshore wind that means converting wind energy into electrical energy and our goal is to continuously improve the reliability and efficiency of the turbine machinery and systems involved.

“Converteam is delighted to have been selected as technical leaders for the UK’s first open access turbine test centre. It’s a truly world class facility which will provide wind turbine manufacturers with a cost effective means of proving and improving their products prior to deploying them into the unforgiving offshore environment.”

The test rig will be sited alongside Narec’s rapidly expanding facilities for testing wind turbine blades and marine energy systems.

John Christiansen, MTS Global Wind Market Manager said:MTS is committed to delivering the mechanical test and simulation expertise and technology required for improving wind turbine reliability and durability.

Partnering with Converteam on this project presents an excellent opportunity for us to demonstrate the capabilities of our Non-Torque Loading (NTL) technology and play a role in advancing the state-of-the-art of wind turbine drive train testing.”


Source: Energy Technologies, July 07, 2011;