Carbon Diary: Winds of change to the North East
The launch of the new Neptune Blade facility in Newcastle today is a fantastic development for the whole of the region.
The TUC rightly welcomed today’s announcement from US company Clipper Windpower to build a factory making the world’s largest turbine blade in Newcastle. What’s involved is a 10 megawatt (MW) Britannia wind turbine. Each turbine will be able to satisfy the annual electricity consumption of over 6500 households. The factory building the blades will be based on Tyneside, creating 500 jobs by 2020.
It’s the supply chain that also counts here: as the BWEA points out, Clipper’s factory joins a growing number of UK businesses capitalising on the onshore and offshore wind supply chain. A year ago, Clipper Windpower established an R&D facility at the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in Blyth, 15 miles from Newcastle. 60,000 to 70,000 new jobs could be generated in wind alone by 2020. The potential 40+ gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind alone could supply over a third of our country’s electricity.
Commenting today, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Clipper’s decision, backed by £8million Government investment from its low carbon technology fund, is a huge stride forward for the UK’s renewable industry.”
But there’s a steel sting in the tail. Each turbine needs maybe a thousand tonnes of steel. This week, Corus announced the mothballing of Teesside Cast Products. Naturally, it drew an angry reaction from Community union, alleging the company had washed their hands of a loyal and skilled workforce, with the loss of 1,600 jobs. These core, energy intensive industries matter every bit as much as the new green technologies in our low carbon future.