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United Kingdom

Analysis - Rush to invest in UK as three jump in

UK: Siemens AG has joined Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Clipper Windpower in announcing plans to invest in UK wind power. The wind-turbine factory will cost around £50 million and will be formally launched this month.

Siemens UK CEO Andreas J. Goss said: "The British government has established attractive conditions for investors in renewables. We're intending to make investments in the high double-digit million range."

Mitsubishi is to invest £100 million in new research facilities in the UK to develop a 6MW offshore wind turbine, creating 200 jobs by 2014. The UK government, which has provided grants worth £30 million, hopes the project will put the UK in pole position for commercial-scale manufacturing of Mitsubishi's next generation of offshore wind turbines, creating up to 1,500 jobs.

Peter Clusky, senior manager in Mitsubishi's Power Systems Europe division renewables team, explains that the project will look at innovative technology for larger wind turbines with higher reliability in deeper waters for deployment from the later stages of the UK's third round of offshore development.

Meanwhile, turbine manufacturer Clipper is building a factory in the north-east of England to develop and build blades for the 'Britannia Project', a 10MW wind turbine prototype.

Government support

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband says Mitsubishi's move shows the UK is starting to turn leadership in offshore wind generation into leadership in manufacturing. "We have the wind resource and we now have an industry that is really starting to grow," he says. "This is possible because of our domestic market and our commitment to support companies that locate here."

The Mitsubishi announcement came just one week after Clipper started work on its factory in Newcastle, north-east England. The company received a Department of Energy and Climate Change grant of £4.46 million last year.

Large-blade development

With blades at 72 metres long and weighing over 30 tonnes, Clipper's prototype is among the largest wind turbines under development. The first commercial prototype is scheduled for deployment in late 2012 and is to be bought by the Crown Estate, which owns most of the UK seabed and is a partner in each of the UK's nine wind zones in the third cycle of the government's offshore programme. Clipper expects to employ a local workforce of more than 500 people if it secures a 1GW-per-year share of development.

The government has also granted £18.5 million of funding towards an offshore test site for wind turbines in north-east England. Located between one and 100km off the coast near the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) at Blyth, the grid-connected offshore demonstration site will have capacity for up to 20 large-scale prototypes totalling up to 100MW. The offshore test wind farm will require planning consent and a site lease from the Crown Estate.

"The facility will be unique in global R&D terms, enabling manufacturers and wind farm developers to identify best practice approaches across the supply chain for the development, deployment and (operations and maintenance) of new turbine technologies, which will be most pertinent to the round-three programme," says Andrew Mill, CEO of Narec. He adds that the test site will complement Narec's existing testing facilities and its expansion plans to test components for bigger offshore machines, including drive trains and blades of up to 100 metres in length.

According to Stephen Wilson, Narec's director of wind energy, companies will be able to demonstrate innovative turbines, foundations and new installation techniques. The water depth, at between 25 metres and 60 metres, and the varying soil conditions make the proposed location ideal for a test site, he says, adding: "These are representative of the sites in round three."

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