Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Opportunities are blowing in the wind

Jo Chan, an innovation manager and entrepreneur within the Newcastle Innovation Machine investigates business opportunities in the North East renewables sector.

THE North East has the infrastructure in place to help the region capitalise on the development of some of Europe’s biggest offshore wind fields which will provide the country with thousands of megawatts of green electricity.

The wind conditions in Dogger Bank and Hornsea – Round Three developments more than 100 miles out to sea are among the best in Europe and the establishment of Narec (the National Renewable Energy Centre) in south Northumberland also means companies will be able to develop the cutting-edge infrastructure to maximise their seaward investments.

Factor in companies like Shepherd Offshore and Clipper Windpower, intent on manufacturing turbines on Tyneside, and utilities would be foolish to ignore the offshore potential of the North East.

But a piece of the puzzle is missing: the logistical capacity to give utilities a cost-effective transport capability to get their engineers out to the fields.

So far this has not been adequately addressed. Licensed utilities have all voiced that the first step should be an independent service operator offering a logistical support.

And realistically, an onshore helipad, based in or near Newcastle and landing pads at sea, is the only viable option. Boats and ferries will take upwards of half a day to make the one-way journey and will be hindered from docking more than 60 per cent of the time due to wave heights being significantly above safe operable limits. Not only is this an expensive waste of time for skilled engineers; in emergency situations having the infrastructure to airlift personnel out of danger will be crucial.

What exists as a business opportunity is the chance to adopt the role Aberdeen plays for the offshore oil drilling sector; there is absolutely no reason why Newcastle could not follow suit and become the onshore hub servicing Dogger Bank and Hornsea.

At the moment, an independent logistics consultancy would drastically reduce the projected overheads for utilities and make the opportunity available in the North East a lot more inviting.

A dedicated helipad would also create local skilled jobs that would make a significant contribution to the regional economy.

This is a business for the long game though – and is one idea among many that a team within Newcastle Science City has been investigating. Advanced discussions with major utilities have proved fruitful and all would welcome an independent logistics service. Ultimately, Newcastle Science City plans to take this idea forward and is building up an irrefutable case that developing a logistics operation would benefit both the utilities and the city region as a whole.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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