UP to 2,500 jobs will be created in Yorkshire’s burgeoning offshore wind industry following a series of major announcements by energy firms this year, according to new Government research confirming the huge opportunity offered by North Sea wind.
Writing in today’s Yorkshire Post, Conservative Energy Minister Charles Hendry makes clear the Coalition believes “next-generation industries” such as the offshore wind sector are set to give regions like Yorkshire “a real opportunity to thrive again” after decades of industrial decline.
Four massive offshore wind farms are due to be built off the Yorkshire coast over the next decade as the UK pushes forward towards its 30 per cent target for renewable energy by 2020.
The construction and maintenance of the thousands of turbines required is seen as a major economic opportunity for the whole of the East Coast, and the Yorkshire Post is campaigning for the thousands of jobs which will be created to be centred upon this region.
While the installation of the first wind turbine remains more than a year away, several key announcements have been made over recent months – including confirmation last week that German technology giant Siemens will site a turbine factory at the Port of Hull, creating 800 new jobs.
Now Mr Hendry has revealed that research carried out by the Department for Energy and Climate Change suggests the commitments made since April by firms such as Siemens and Dong Energy – which is building an 80-turbine offshore wind farm near Withernsea – will deliver a total of 2,500 new jobs to the region.
Further proposals announced in 2011/12 could push the job total beyond 3,000, he adds.
“Offshore wind increases our energy security and reduces our carbon emissions,” the Minister writes. “But the benefits of the technology go wider than this, with offshore wind having the potential to support tens of thousands of jobs across the country.
“The potential of the region is only just starting to be realised.”
Highlighting announcements from firms such as Siemens, Mr Hendry goes on: “Research by my department shows that so far this financial year, companies have announced investment of £469.3m, with the potential to support up to 2,500 jobs in the Yorkshire region if all of these plans are delivered.
“In addition, developers have announced plans for a further potential £300m investment and 559 jobs in the pipeline.”
The first two wind farms, each containing between 70 and 80 turbines, will be constructed just a few miles from shore – one near Withernsea, and one in the mouth of the River Humber. Each should generate enough electricity to power at least 150,000 homes.
They will both be dwarfed, however, by two vast developments further out into the North Sea. The 4GW Hornsea wind farm will generate a similar output to Drax Power Station, and involves at least 660 turbines.
The 12GW Dogger Bank wind farm will be even further out and three times the size, spanning a stretch of North Sea the width as England. It will be the largest wind farm in the world.
Both should be in operation before the end of the decade.
Regional planners hope the arrival of Siemens in Hull will now encourage other turbine manufacturers to locate factories nearby, taking advantage of the supply chain opportunities and port facilities Yorkshire could offer.
Multinational turbine-makers including General Electric, Gamesa, REpower and Alstom have all announced they will site new factories somewhere along the East Coast of the UK to supply the offshore wind farms.
Mr Hendry makes clear the benefits of the new industry will stretch well beyond local ports, with supply-chain support required from across the region.
It is hoped Yorkshire will eventually become a manufacturing hub that could export its turbine expertise around the world.
Mr Hendry writes: “A prime example of a company seeing serious and real benefit from the green economy is Rotherham-based engineering firm MTL, which this year signed its largest export contract ever, to supply a German company with components for a North Sea wind project.”
While offshore wind farms tend to be less contentious than those built on shore, the proposed developments have not been without controversy.
Last month Mr Hendry gave planning permission for Dong Energy’s 80-turbine Westermost Rough wind farm near Withernsea, despite concerns from advisory body Natural England that sea views from beauty spots such as Flamborough Head and Spurn Point could be “impacted upon.”