Narec boosts offshore renewables with £ 2.8 million

Wednesday, 17 July, 2013 - 15:00

The National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) has established a £ 2.8 million public-private initiative to support small and medium enterprises (SME) in the North East of England to move into the rapidly developing offshore wind and marine renewable energy supply chain. The Renewable Energy Technology Accelerator (RETA) project will launch with three new collaborations, involving companies developing innovative technologies to reduce the cost of offshore renewable energy installations.

Over its lifetime, the project is expected to provide more than 70 regional SMEs with technical and market advisory services to assist them with developing products and services aimed at the offshore renewables industry. The European Regional Development Fund 2007- 2013, which is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, is investing £ 1.39 million in the project. This funding is being matched by Narec along with five industry partners and all work will be undertaken in the North East to engage local companies.

Tony Ikwue, Innovation and Corporate Development Director at Narec, said: “Narec has created this programme to build on the strengths of local engineering companies. Initial interest from industry has been extremely high and the projects selected will see new products being developed in the North East. There will also be knock on benefits by way of supply contracts and knowledge transfer opportunities for SMEs looking to enter these promising but still relatively immature industries.”

The programme will be completed by the end of March 2015. Two technology innovation projects are already underway and a third is currently in development.

IHC Engineering Business will work with Narec on the development of an inter-array cable trencher for offshore wind farms. This will be suitable for trenching both away from and towards turbine and substation foundations in seabed conditions representative of planned UK offshore wind sites. Ralph Manchester, Chief Trenching Engineer at IHC Engineering Business, explains the revolutionary design: “The High Traction (Hi-Traq) vehicle uses patented technology to improve manoeuvrability, traction and overall trenching capability. It has been specifically developed to reduce the day to day issues facing operators. They have no option at the moment but to use technology designed and build for the oil and gas sector –technology that is not appropriate for the offshore wind farm sector.”

Furthermore, Tecnalia will work with PDL Solutions and JDR Cable Systems on the design and development of smart cable technology. Offshore grid infrastructure reliability is a key concern for the industry and this project will focus on improving the understanding of cable performance in-situ, so that installation, operational and asset management practices can be evolved to optimise energy production.

Last but not least, a tidal energy converter nacelle intervention system is in development.

Katharina Garus

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