Wind Turbines

The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Green:
Renewable Energy Projects in
the North East

For a region which has been shaped by heavy industry, the North East is remarkably quick at adapting its skills and strengths to meet the challenges of the future.

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Where once coal mining, shipbuilding and heavy industry dominated, now the region is looking to ‘green’ industry to forge a path forward.

From offshore wind to electric cars, green hydrogen to carbon capture and storage, the North East is leading the way to Net Zero and a transition to a more sustainable future.

Spreading the word regionally, nationally and internationally about the great work being done in this region can help to bring about recognition and reward as well as inspire others to join in the drive.

Here, we take a look at some of the projects and companies blazing a trail for the North East.

Wind Turbine Northumberland

Port of Blyth

A fixture on the North East coast since the 19th century, in the 21st century, Port of Blyth has established itself as a leading support base for the UK’s offshore energy and renewables sector.

As well as providing a range of facilities for offshore renewable companies, including heavy lift quays and open storage, Port of Blyth is home to some of the most exciting projects and developments in the green energy sector.

Blyth is home to the influential Energy Central partnership intent on supporting inward investment from the renewables sector, the world-leading test facilities of the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the £35m Northumberland Energy Park development and EDF’s Blyth Offshore Demonstrator Wind Farm.

One of the most anticipated developments at Port of Blyth is the construction of the new Energy Central Learning Hub.

This multi-million pound development, part of the £90m Energising Blyth regeneration programme, will deliver STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and sector-related vocational and work-based learning in high-quality specialist training facilities to create the next generation of engineers and renewable energy workers.

The Learning Hub will form part of Energy Central Campus, a strategic partnership between Northumberland County Council, Port of Blyth, and Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult. It aims to bring academia and business together helping to bridge the skills gap and further develop those looking for a career in the industry.

With facilities and infrastructure for the present and skills and training for the future, Port of Blyth looks set to play a crucial part in the development of renewable energy not just in the North East but across the UK.

Port of Blyth

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapul

As previously mentioned, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult is the UK’s leading technology, innovation and research centre for offshore renewable energy.

With centres at Port of Blyth and Glasgow, ORE Catapult uses its facilities, research and engineering capabilities to bring together industry and academia and drive innovation.

Since its establishment in 2013, ORE Catapult has racked up an impressive set of achievements in the offshore renewable sector including:

  • Partnering in over 650 research and development projects
  • Supporting over 1,350 SMEs
  • Helping to bring 148 new products and services to market
  • Publishing over 250 research and analysis papers
  • Working on innovation projects worth more than £677m

ORE Catapult works in four main areas – research, innovation, testing & validation and supply chain growth – to help advance the offshore renewable sector, the companies which work within it and the scientists and engineers pioneering new developments.

At its Port of Blyth centre, ORE Catapult has some of the most advanced testing equipment in the entire industry, including a facility which can wind-test turbine blades of up to 100 metres long, test facilities for turbine powertrains and even a centre which specialises in the development of disruptive technologies.

Its facilities and know-how place ORE Catapult right at the cutting edge of the offshore renewable energy sector, making the North East a key location for innovation, development and commercialisation.

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult

Teesworks

If you’re looking for the perfect illustration of how the North East has changed from the traditional heavy industries of the past to the ‘green’ industries of the future, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better example than Teesworks.

Once the site of a giant steelworks and the heart of the Tees Valley’s industrial landscape on the south bank of the River Tees, Teesworks is now Europe’s largest brownfield development site, covering a vast area of more than 2,000 acres and ripe with potential and possibilities.

Teesworks has already made major strides towards becoming a nationally and internationally significant centre for green energy developments of all kinds, from green hydrogen to offshore renewables.

Already taking shape on site is the giant SeAH factory (see more on this below), which will produce monopiles for giant offshore wind turbines.

Energy giant EDF Renewables UK and Hynamics, a 100% subsidiary of EDF Group specialising in hydrogen, have submitted plans for their Tees Green Hydrogen project.

If plans are approved, this 12-acre development on the former Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) Plant at Lackenby will produce green hydrogen using electrolysis, powered by electricity from EDF Renewables UK’s portfolio, including from the proposed Tees Solar farm project, near Redcar.

And the Government’s Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (NZHF) has already pledged £28m towards Tees Green Hydrogen.

Work is also under way on what would be not just a North East or a UK first but a world first: Net Zero Teesside Power. This ambitious project aims to be the world’s first gas-fired power station with carbon capture and storage capability, and will help drive Teesside’s aim to become the UK’s first decarbonised industrial cluster as early as 2040.

The proposed power station will generate up to 860 megawatts of low carbon electricity- enough to power up to 1.3 million UK homes. Up to two million tonnes of CO2 emissions from the power station will be captured each year – emissions which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

With a focus on sustainability and advanced manufacturing – and 85% of the site still available – we can expect even more exciting ‘green’ developments over the coming
months and years.

Teesworks

SeAH Wind

Something very big is taking shape at the Teesworks site on the south bank of the River Tees.

The SeAH Wind factory will be the largest of its kind in the world once construction has been completed on the giant structure.

Representing a £450m investment by South Korean-based SeAH, the 800 metre long factory will be the first of its kind in the UK.

The 40m high factory will annually produce up to 200 monopiles – huge structures which form the foundations of offshore wind turbines.

The monopiles will each be up to 120 metres in length, 15.5 metres in diameter and weigh around 3,000 tonnes.

Once made, they will be transported directly from the factory to Teesworks’ new South Bank Quay facility before heading to the North Sea for installation using specialised pile driving equipment.

Steel for the factory is being made on Teesside at the British Steel Teesside Beam Mill with other steel being recycled from former steelworks sites in the new construction to help create the new facilities from the ashes of the old.

Of course, a giant factory needs plenty of people to work in it. Recruitment has already started for the new SeAH plant with hundreds of would-be workers coming along to a series of recruitment events to find out more about working at SeAH. The company is also working with Further Education colleges and other training providers in the region to help teach the skills which will be needed by the hundreds of workers at the plant.

SeAH Wind

GeoPura

A pioneer in the green hydrogen field, GeoPura recently secured a £56m investment boost to help accelerate the adoption of green hydrogen by expanding its production capacity.

The additional finance will directly increase the manufacture and supply of GeoPura’s Hydrogen Power Units (HPUs) at its facility in Newcastle. The units work to replace traditional diesel generators by providing on-site electric power to companies and organisations whilst producing zero carbon emissions.

The HPUs have already been successfully supplied to a wide range of high-profile customers including the Ministry of Defence, Balfour Beatty, National Grid and the BBC.

Along with hubs in Nottingham, Matlock and Sheffield, GeoPura’s Newcastle facility mass manufactures HPUs in collaboration with partner Siemens Energy.

The company plans to deploy a fleet of over 3,600 HPUs by 2033, providing clean, low-cost reliable power and displacing more than 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions through their operation.

In addition, GeoPura plans to expand its production of green hydrogen, helping to transform an old coal power station site as part of the HyMarnham Power Green Hydrogen project in the East Midlands.

The scaling up of green hydrogen is vital in helping to meet net zero by reducing emissions in sectors where decarbonisation in particularly challenging, such as in construction and in the UK’s industrial heartlands, and complement renewables by providing supplementary power to the electricity grid.

GeoPura

AESC gigafactor

For over three decades, the North East has been a powerhouse in the UK car manufacturing sector thanks to the presence of the Nissan plant in Washington, for many years rated as the most efficient car plant in Europe.

With power trains switching from internal combustion engines to electric batteries as part of the drive to cut carbon emissions, the North East looks set to lead the way here as well.

Electric vehicle battery maker AESC, which is still 20% owned by Nissan, has operated what is so far the UK’s only operational electric car ‘gigafactory’ next to the Washington Nissan plant since 2013.

That site already produces energy equivalent to 1.8 gigwatt hours (GWh) – enough to power around 1.5 million homes – but its new factory on a neighbouring site promises to deliver almost ten times more at 15.8GWh.

The UK Infrastructure Bank recently granted a loan of £200 million towards the new factory, which has been under construction since 2022 and is hoped to be operationally ready by 2025.

In November of last year, Nissan confirmed plans to produce three electric models in Sunderland: the bestselling Qashqai and Juke and the successor to the Leaf.

AESC expects to create around 1,000 jobs at the new battery factory, which could also supply battery cells to Jaguar Land Rover in future.

AESC

Full green ahead

There is no doubting the scale and ambition of the developments in green energy happening in front of us in the North East.

While some of these are still at an early stage, many are either already here or are coming on stream within the next couple of years.

With the rubber starting to hit the road when it comes to the drive towards Net Zero, this region can rightfully claim to be in the driving seat on the UK’s journey to a decarbonised future.

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