General Electric has decided to test the world’s largest offshore wind turbines at a test facility in England in a major vote of confidence for the UK’s burgeoning wind power industry.
The renewables arm of the American conglomerate will take its mammoth 12MW wind turbines for a spin at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult centre in Northumberland as part of a five year research and development deal beginning later this year.
The world’s largest turbines currently in operation were installed off the coast of Aberdeen earlier this month, at less than 9MW in capacity each.
GE Renewable Energy believes its 350 foot new turbines could also be more efficient than the current generation of offshore wind farms by generating more power from lower wind speeds with a 720 foot diameter spin.
The company will be able to test its theories at the catapult centre in Blyth which can replicate real-world conditions for turbines up to 15MW in capacity.
Energy minister Claire Perry said the deal proves that UK support for offshore renewables has helped develop “world-class research and testing facilities”.
“Through our industrial strategy, we are making the UK a global leader in renewables, including offshore wind, with more support available than any other country in the world,” she said.
Already the UK draws almost a quarter of all wind power investment made across Europe.
“The offshore wind industry is exceptionally well placed to boost supplies of home grown clean energy whilst growing new jobs and opportunities,” she added.
As part of the deal the centre will also receive a £6m joint investment from Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to install the world’s largest and most powerful grid emulation system.
John Lavelle, GE’s offshore wind boss, said the testing centre will allow the turbines to get to the water faster.
“Traditional testing methods rely on local wind conditions and therefore have limited repeatability for testing. By using ORE Catapult’s facilities and expertise, we will be in a better position to adapt our technology in a shortened time,” he said.