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From Humberside with Love

UP to 77 off-shore turbines. 30km of land cabling. Enough electricity to power 195,000 homes. If anyone is in any doubt that wind power is now a serious business then E.ON’s Humber Gateway wind farm should provide sufficient enlightenment. Some staggering facts about this large project, which is taking shape off the coast of Hull, were presented to the audience of a GreenTech Business Network event at BioCity titled ‘developing local and regional strengths in the turbine industry.

The event was held jointly with Humberside’s Renewables Network and was arranged in part to discuss how major renewable projects such as the Humber Gateway could create supply chain opportunities for businesses in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands. Job creation linked to E.ON’s wind farm is already taking place with Siemens’ announcement that it will now build a turbine component factory on Humberside. The wind farm itself is expected to begin generating power in 2014. Humber Gateway’s chief engineer Matthew Swanwick - a local boy, having grown up in Sutton-in-Ashfield - said he could see ‘gaps in the market’ in areas such as installation survey and off-shore cabling.

The core message from the event’s panel of experts* was that procurement opportunities would cascade down to the East Midlands but that local companies have to ensure they have expertise in required specialist areas. Peter Poon, managing director of the Nottingham-based turbine gear design consultancy Romax Technology, which has won large contracts in China, Korea and the USA, made the point that the UK was “the world’s largest off-shore wind turbine site” and that foreign businesses would be coming to Britain to buy into expertise. It was down to British businesses to study the market and see where the opportunities were. Poon said that Romax’s work in turbine design was growing year by year. “The amount of work in this area is colossal and we have just been dragged along in its slipstream,” he said.
The good news for Nottinghamshire, according to turbine designer Peter Schubel, is that the county already has a great deal of expertise in wind energy testing and turbine design. Schubel has co-designed a small turbine intended for urban use which has been installed at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus, where it is being evaluated. In building this turbine Schubel drew on the expertise of several local and regional companies working in areas such as composite materials. These included Formax, Pentam Composites, Abacus Lighting and Scott Bader. As well as engineering know-how, recent events at Hockerton in the east of the county have also shown that there is now also a wealth of experience in the operation – and funding - of much smaller wind turbine schemes.
*The speakers at the procurement event were Sam Pick, of the Renewables Network; Peter Poon, managing director of turbine gear design consultancy Romax Technology; Peter Schubel, a turbine designer who works at the University of Nottingham; and E.ON project manager Matthew Swanwick.

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