Financing for a 100MW offshore turbine test site, planned for waters off Blyth, Northumberland, is expected to be agreed early next year, Windpower Offshore has learned. This should allow the project to proceed swiftly, given that regulatory approval is anticipated around March 2013.
The project is part of the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec), which will also boast onshore blade and nacelle test facilities.
In May, Narec announced it is seeking £333m (€420.6m) to progress its offshore test site. Potential investors have completed pre-qualification vetting and will soon be invited to submit investment bids, Windpower Offshore understands. Negotiations are earmarked for the autumn, with Narec planning to finalise funding arrangements before making an announcement late in the first quarter of 2013. It hopes to announce both project financing and positive news about receipt of a marine permit.
"There is a sense of urgency about the project because the offshore wind industry needs test sites," said a Narec spokesperson. Narec submitted its permit application for the offshore test site in March, after two years of preparation and consultation with local stakeholders.
The plan foresees up to 15 individual turbine positions, arranged in three arrays. The turbines on test will be grid connected, with a limit of 100MW set for the project’s total installed capacity. If very large turbines are installed, the total number of available positions may be restricted to, perhaps, as few as ten.
The project does not appear to face significant opposition from local interests, unlike the UK’s other planned offshore turbine test facility, the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay. The EOWDC continues to be opposed by high-profile US property developer, Donald Trump.
Blade testing up to 100m
Construction of Narec’s second facility for turbine blade testing was completed yesterday, as scheduled. It will be used to test blades greater than 50m in length, and up to 100m. An existing facility tests blades up to 50m. Narec is home to the UK’s only independent and accredited wind turbine blade testing equipment. Vestas is thought to possess the only other blade test capability in the country, at its Isle of Wight research and development centre.
Commissioning of Narec’s new blade test facility will begin soon, with commercial testing set to start in the new year. Narec has not specified which blade it will use for the commissioning phase, but it has confirmed that the blade is on site. It is in talks with a range of blade manufacturers about commercial testing, with interested parties free to use the new facility for accredited testing, trouble-shooting for existing blades and/or the development of new blade designs.
Meanwhile, Narec’s nacelle test facility is on track to begin commissioning toward the end of next summer.