Hugh McNeal: Wind in the sails of industry as Yorkshire leads green energy revolution

IT was great to be back in Hull for the official opening of Siemens' state-of-the-art offshore wind turbine plant.

Hull is now leading the UK's green energy revolution.

This was the moment when years of hard work by Siemens, working with energetic and tenacious local people, the city council and national Government, and many others with the same irrepressible, innovative vision came to fruition.

This is a key part of Britain’s industrial strategy for the 
future, building on Yorkshire’s proud manufacturing history.

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The unprecedented investment of £160m in a world-class turbine blade production and installation facilities at Alexandra Dock represents a massive stride forward for the UK’s offshore wind industry and for the Humber region.

The combined investment from Siemens and Associated British Ports of £310m in Green Port Hull will create a thousand direct jobs.

Seven hundred people have already been recruited, nearly all from the local area.

And there will be more jobs to come during the construction phase as well as in the supply chain.

The positive effect on local people is wide-ranging. I met a former Asda store manager who now runs a digital media business – he filmed the construction of the Siemens factory.

Offshore wind is a rapidly expanding sector touching all parts of the UK’s economy.

What’s happening here 
in East Yorkshire is a prime example of how modern industrial regrowth can happen around Britain.

Siemens is one of many trailblazers making investments in the sector right across 
the UK.

In the last few weeks, JDR Cables in Hartlepool announced that it has won a major contract 
to design and manufacture subsea power cables for what 
will be the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, DONG Energy’s Hornsea Project One, to be built 120 kilometres off the East Yorkshire coast.

DONG will have invested £6bn in the Humber region by the end of the decade.

Just last week in Belfast, Harland and Wolff secured a big deal to supply steel foundations to an offshore wind farm off the Suffolk coast.

Last month, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind on the Isle of Wight announced it needs seventy extra workers to manufacture turbine blades. CS Wind at Campbeltown in Scotland is recruiting 160 more staff – it will be manufacturing massive turbine towers for Siemens as well as other international companies.

These announcements 
show that offshore wind developers are committed to maximising the amount of locally-made kit in their projects, to ensure that we reap the economic benefits of renewable energy.

The offshore wind industry is bringing well over £20bn in investment to Britain over the course of this decade, creating thousands of new jobs, from apprentices taking their first steps into the high-tech field, to experienced workers making the transition from the oil and gas sector into renewables.

This is happening across the UK, from Liverpool to Lowestoft and from the Isle of Wight to the Isle of Mull, and of course right here in Yorkshire.

Given the number of east coast offshore wind farms, and the number of companies which are already based here, Yorkshire is well-placed to benefit from the renewables revolution.

Across the UK, similar investments have the power to transform the lives of those who benefit from them, helping to regenerate communities and fulfil potential which might otherwise have gone unrealised.

The UK is proud to be the global leader in offshore wind.

We’ve been learning by building more offshore 
wind projects than any other country.

We’re exporting our expertise around the world.

British companies have already won a 115 contracts (worth up to £30m apiece) 
for 50 offshore wind projects abroad.

There are 250 offshore wind farms at the development stage internationally, representing a massive economic and industrial opportunity for the UK.

This summer, we worked with the Government to bring a delegation from China here to learn about offshore wind.

Then in the autumn, we took a group of UK companies to China to do business.

We’re going global.

Offshore wind is a great British success story so we should celebrate it, as we are doing in Hull, because Yorkshire is leading the way.

Hugh McNeal is chief executive of RenewableUK, the trade and professional body representing the wind, wave and tidal energy industries.