Narec: GBP 2.8 Million Boost for Offshore Renewables Supply Chain in North East England

Narec: GBP 2.8 Million Boost for Offshore Renewables Supply Chain in North East England

The National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) has established a £2.8 million public-private initiative to support SMEs in the North East of England to move into the rapidly developing offshore wind and marine renewable energy supply chain.

The Renewable Energy Technology Accelerator (RETA) project will launch with three new collaborations, involving companies developing innovative technologies to reduce the cost of offshore renewable energy installations.

Tony Ikwue, Innovation and Corporate Development Director at Narec, said: “Narec has created this programme to build on the strengths of local engineering companies.  Initial interest from industry has been extremely high and the projects selected will see new products being developed in the North East. There will also be knock on benefits by way of supply contracts and knowledge transfer opportunities for SMEs looking to enter these promising but still relatively immature industries.” 

Over its lifetime, the project is expected to provide more than 70 regional SMEs with technical and market advisory services to assist them with developing products and services aimed at the offshore renewables industry. The European Regional Development Fund Competitiveness Programme 2007- 2013, which is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, is investing £1.39 million in the project. This funding is being matched by Narec along with five industry partners and all work will be undertaken in the North East to engage local companies.

Cllr Neil Foster, Deputy Chair of the North East England Local Management Committee (LMC), which engages key partners in the overseeing of the strategic delivery of the ERDF Programme in the North East, said: “ERDF investment will ensure businesses receive excellent support to develop innovative new products; helping SMEs to enter the market, or enhance their position within the industry. Businesses will have access to Narec’s world class research facilities and expertise to develop their ideas and immerse themselves in the emerging supply chain. This will have a positive impact on the North East economy.”

The programme will be completed by the end of March 2015. Two technology innovation projects are already underway and a third is currently in development, these are:

·         Inter-array cable trencher

IHC Engineering Business will work with Narec on the development of an inter-array cable trencher for offshore wind farms. This will be suitable for trenching both away from and towards turbine and substation foundations in seabed conditions representative of planned UK offshore wind sites.

Ralph Manchester, Chief Trenching Engineer at IHC Engineering Business, explains the revolutionary design: “The High Traction (Hi-Traq) vehicle uses patented technology to improve manoeuvrability, traction and overall trenching capability.  It has been specifically developed to reduce the day to day issues facing operators. They have no option at the moment but to use technology designed and build for the oil and gas sector – technology that is not appropriate for the offshore wind farm sector.”

·         Smart cables for offshore power transmission

Tecnalia will work with PDL Solutions and JDR Cable Systems on the design and development of smart cable technology. Offshore grid infrastructure reliability is a key concern for the industry and this project will focus on improving the understanding of cable performance in-situ, so that installation, operational and asset management practices can be evolved to optimise energy production.

Elisa Ruiz, Project Manager at Tecnalia, said: “The smart cables project is an exciting opportunity for the consortium partners to work together to deliver innovation which has the potential to materially impact the levelised cost of offshore renewable energy.”

James Young, Engineering Director at JDR, added: “We are committed to enabling the next generation of offshore power projects to deliver cost-effective renewable energy, using the latest developments in cable technology and manufacture. The collaborative approach being taken by NAREC and the support provided by the ERDF, will enable us to accelerate developments in smart cable technology that will benefit the industry and the region.”

Paul Charlton, CEO, PDL Solutions, said: “This project is an excellent opportunity to showcase the specialist skills and expertise located here in North East England; it highlights the vital contribution the region is playing in the commercialisation and reliability of offshore renewable energy technologies. This is a great opportunity for PDL and the wider supply chain; we are really pleased to be part of this collaborative industrial research project.”

·        Tidal energy converter nacelle intervention system

This project, currently in development, will enable Atlantis Resources Corporation to work with Narec on the development of a highly innovative nacelle intervention system for their tidal energy turbine. This is intended to significantly reduce the installation and operation costs offshore.

Tim Cornelius, Chief Executive Officer of Atlantis Resources, said: “The tidal energy industry is at a crucial stage in its development and this partnership could make a material difference in accelerating the speed of national turbine deployment. By reducing installation and intervention costs for offshore devices, we plan to bring commercial tidal power arrays to the UK in the near future.”


Press release, July 10, 2013; Image: Xodus