Wind energy boost for north of England to the tune of GBP3 million

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Stimulating innovation and technological developments for the offshore wind industry in the North of England

The Northern Wind Innovation Programme (NWIP) has announced the names of companies participating in newly formed consortia set to benefit from a share of £3 million, specifically aimed at stimulating innovation and technological developments for the offshore wind industry in the North of England.

The Northern Wind Innovation Programme, funded by The Northern Way (a partnership of the three northern regional development agencies; One North East, Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and Yorkshire Forward) is being delivered by the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) and Envirolink Northwest. The programme outlined three classifications for the projects, AC/DC electrical conversion, foundation system optimization and installation technologies and bearing quality improvement.

The Northern Wind Innovation Programme is a Collaborative Research and Development product as part of Solutions for Business, the Government’s package of publicly funded business support designed to help companies start and grow.

From almost 30 applications received, 10 consortia made up of 38 UK companies were selected against strict technical and economic criteria. They all demonstrated excellent standards in innovation in support of the offshore wind industry.

The successful projects and their collaborative partners are:

• Composite Metal Technology Ltd, the University of Durham, David Brown Gear Systems and Ricardo UK Ltd
• David Brown Gear Systems and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne
• Ricardo UK Ltd, The University of Sheffield and Roballo Engineering Ltd
• Romax Technology Ltd and the University of Sheffield
• Siemens Transmission Distribution and the University of Manchester
• Siemens Wind Power and The University of Sheffield
• TWI, the University of Manchester, Monitor Coatings, McNulty Offshore, VattenFall Wind Power
• TWI, RCID at Newcastle University, SEtech Ltd, Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd, McNulty Offshore Construction Ltd, VattenFall Wind Power, Scottish Power UK plc and Clipperwind plc
• TWI , University of Sheffield, CMR (UK) Ltd, SKM, James Walker, Applied Inspection Ltd, and Le Carbone (GB) Ltd.
• Xanthus Energy Ltd, Able UK Ltd and Ekspan Ltd

The team from NWIP will continue to support the sector by organising inward delegations, stimulating innovation, providing support to companies looking to diversify and by providing marketing information.

For more information please go to or contact Katharine Rawle at Envirolink Northwest on 01925 856042 or email

Case Studies

Xanthus Energy, Ekspan and Able UK

This project aims to deliver a realistic plan for an accelerated offshore wind turbine assembly and installation factory with an optimized onshore assembly process using Xanthus Energy’s unique and patented self-installing foundation system. A key deliverable of the project will be a validated lower cost basis of building offshore wind farms based on SeaBreeze: Fixed™ foundations which use a single trip installation process. This self installing, buoyant concrete gravity base supports the fully assembled wind turbine as it is towed to site by a standard offshore tug and is ballasted into position on the seabed. Whilst concrete foundations have already been used for offshore wind farms, none have used onshore assembly. In addition the installation can be accelerated since it uses a single stage process as all the assembly has been done onshore. This means the wind farm can start generating electricity much earlier (up to 12 months faster) than is possible with the offshore assembly method used today. As a result of the project over two hundred jobs will be created in manufacturing and assembly of the structures, ultimately preparing the way for a North England offshore wind farm supply business.

The project consortium members include Xanthus Energy Ltd who have developed their unique self-installing foundation system based on their offshore engineering expertise, Able UK Ltd a significant land owner and port operator on the English East Coast, and Ekspan Ltd who have broad engineering and heavy fabrication experience in the construction and offshore industry.

Ricardo, the University of Sheffield and Roballo Engineering

Within a turbine gearbox, the array of bearings are subject to critically different operating regimes and installation constraints leading to a diversity of failure modes that continue to challenge the industry. Forensic investigation undertaken by Ricardo on behalf of clients has unearthed classic faults categories: some due to unequal load distribution applied to the bearings in epicyclic gears, others with more subtle origins arise after running at partial turbine power, rather than full power, when the rolling elements are prone to skid and cause scuffing of the precision ground surfaces, rather than roll. Irrespective of origin, wear on the inner bearing ring is concentrated over a small arc of some 40 degrees and can lead to premature failure, whilst the remainder is unworn at the instant of catastrophe. One pragmatic solution involves rotating the “fixed” inner race every-so-often such that the wear is distributed around the full circumference of the race. This ensures that the fatigue damage or wear never reaches a critical condition during the turbine life – an approach also applicable to the outer races of direct drive turbines subject to sustained gravity loads.

A suite of automated mechanisms to achieve this were devised and the best patented before presentation by Ricardo at the 2009 Offshore Wind Conference in Stockholm. Ricardo have teamed with the Leonardo Centre Sheffield University to apply their analysis and oil-film measurement techniques, and Roballo Engineering to provide volume manufacturing expertise for large bearings and prototype parts. The bearing’s name, MultiLife™, will be appropriate if testing validates the five-fold life increase anticipated. Jonathan Wheals, Chief Engineer for Innovation and Technology at Ricardo says that, “without NWIP’s support we would have probably pursued interest in the concept from overseas manufacturers, so we are delighted to work with world-class partners in the Northern region at the heart of the UK wind industry”.

Siemens and the University of Sheffield

The Siemens Sheffield Wind Power Research Centre is very proud to have received funding from NWIP to conduct research activities in multi-megawatt energy conversion systems for future offshore wind turbines. The S2WP centre will be focusing its research activities on highly efficient and cost effective solutions for permanent magnet direct drive generators and power conversion technology. This funding will enable the new centre to accelerate the competence build-up and we expect that the newly established centre will employ up to 15 research engineers at PhD level in 2010, directed by Prof. Z. Q. Zhu from Sheffield University. We are certain that being selected for NWIP funding will help us to attract top talent not only from the UK but also from all over the world,” says Kurt Andersen, Head of Generator, Siemens Wind Power, Denmark.

Over the coming years we see potential growth and job opportunities particularly in the renewable energy business and in delivering low-carbon solutions that will help the UK to meet its CO2 reduction targets. For example, in wind energy alone, we anticipate that the 300 UK-based jobs which we have currently will rise to more than 500 by 2011. We’re continually striving to further strengthen our wind power business in the UK. A key factor in our future potential is the continued investment in research and development, driving us to cement our relationship with Sheffield University’s world-leading Electronic and Electrical Engineering department.

About the funders:

The Northern Way is a unique initiative, bringing together the cities and regions of the North of England to work together to improve the sustainable economic development of the North towards the level of more prosperous regions. Formed as a partnership between the three northern Regional Development Agencies (Yorkshire Forward, NWDA and One North East), we also work with local authorities, universities, the private sector and other partners to secure a strong coalition in support of this goal. The Northern Way has prioritised offshore wind as one of four investment areas to support innovation across the North.

About the Delivery Partners:

Narec is a leading research and development platform for new, sustainable and renewable energy technologies. Our unique range of development, testing and consultancy services work to support the evolving energy industry and transform innovative new technologies into commercial successes.

Envirolink Northwest is the energy and environmental technologies and services (ETS) sector development organisation in England’s Northwest. Envirolink Northwest is supported by the NWDA to improve the competitiveness of the region’s ETS sector.

For further press information please contact:
Lucy Bradwell, Communications Manager, Envirolink Northwest
T 01925 813200 email

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