Yorkshire & Humber’s aspiration to be a global leader in green energy technologies shows no sign of abating, with nuclear now added to the mix. Mark Hansford reports.
More from: Yorkshire and Humber: An introduction
More than 17% of the UK’s entire electricity production is generated in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Energy production sites in Humber include Drax Power Station - currently the largest, cleanest and most efficient coalfired power station in the UK and ConocoPhillips’ combined heat and power plant, one of the world’s largest power stations.
So it was perhaps no surprise when three years ago the Yorkshire & Humber region signalled its intent to be at the forefront of green energy technologies with an energy strategy aimed squarely at clean coal, carbon capture and combined heat and power technologies (NCE 15 March 2007).
That intention rapidly became a reality. Research compiled by construction intelligence service Glenigan for last year’s Yorkshire & Humber Focus showed that four of the top 20 schemes awarded in the region in the preceding 12 months were green energy projects - bioethanol, biomass and wind farm schemes.
Yorkshire 2010: Facts and statistics
Proportion of UK power generated in Yorkshire and Humber region
Value of low carbon energy projects now in the pipeline
Value of low carbon energy projects planned last year
For more figures visit the Glenigan website, leading supplier of construction market intelligence
The research also revealed well in excess of £2bn of low carbon energy projects in the pipeline, with half of the region’s top 20 projects focused on this sector. This year’s research shows the pace of the market’s development accelerating rapidly, with in excess of £20bn of low carbon energy projects at the concept, development or planning stage.
This includes wind farms, clean coal power stations, energy from waste plants, biomass schemes and energy recovery facilities.
All that is missing, in fact, is nuclear. But that too is about to change - and rapidly. Last month business secretary Lord Mandelson declared Yorkshire and the North West regions as a new Low Carbon Economic Area for Nuclear, with the government working, in partnership with regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, the North West Development Agency (NWDA) and the nuclear industry, to enable more British companies to compete successfully across the UK’s civil nuclear supply chain.
Revealing his strategy at a meeting of regional development agencies, Mandelson heaped praise on Yorkshire Forward and NWDA, explaining how they produce more than four times the regional economic growth for every pound they invest. “They will help government set the strategic course for recovery,” he said.
Lawrence Hughes, chief executive of Leeds-based consultant Grontmij, sees big opportunities in low carbon. “There is a big push in Yorkshire for low carbon with opportunities especially in energy,” he says.
To accelerate the move to nuclear, Yorkshire Forward is investing £10M in the UK’s new Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) in Rotherham.Based in South Yorkshire, NAMRC will provide a focal point for the bulk of the UK civil nuclear manufacturing industry supply chain.
“Nowhere in Europe has such a large cluster of power stations so close to safe carbon storage”
Its aim is to ensure that manufacturers in the UK have the capability and capacity to compete for nuclear new build projects in the UK and globally, by providing skills training and research and development.
The centre will be based at Rotherham’s Advanced Manufacturing Park and be led by the University of Sheffield in partnership with the University of Manchester with Rolls-Royce as a lead industrial partner. It will also bring together other industry leaders such as Areva, Westinghouse, Sheffield Forgemasters and Namtec.
More nuclear investment is also coming to the region in the shape of Rolls-Royce’s planned civil nuclear facility. The facility will manufacture, assemble and test high quality components for the planned new civil nuclear power plants across the UK.
This investment is expected to create more than 300 jobs, with hundreds more expected to be generated throughout industry supply chains, across the region. But while nuclear is fledgling, for Yorkshire, low carbon now is all about coal.
“Yorkshire is the powerhouse of the UK. You can see seven power stations on my journey to work and they are all coal powered,” says Hughes.
“There are not enough plans in place with renewables to meet demand so the coal stations can’t simply be taken off line. This means that to meet carbon reduction targets there will be interesting work in carbon capture coming along,” he says.
“There is a big push in Yorkshire for low carbon with opportunities especially in energy.”
This could be coming soon. Powerfuel’s proposed power plant in Yorkshire is now one step away from winning €180M (£140M) from the European Commission for a carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration project at its Hatfield site near Doncaster.
The firm beat off rival schemes from E.ON at Kingsnorth, RWE at Tilbury and Scottish Power at Longannet. The decision must now be ratified by the European Parliament.
“Securing the first project is a vital step in developing a region wide CCS cluster,” says Yorkshire Forward chief executive Tom Riordan. “We strongly support the initiative Powerfuel has taken and we look forward to working with them in delivering our vision for carbon capture and storage in the region.This decision catapults our region on to the global stage as a leader in demonstrating commercial scale CCS.
“Nowhere in Europe has such a large number of power stations so close to safe carbon storage in depleted gas fields in the North Sea. And the region has access to proven technology and engineering skills.
“We have the potential to store up to 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions, creating thousands of jobs and creating an infrastructure that could attract energy intensive industries that want a solution for their carbon emissions,” he says.
Other low carbon technologies are also gaining investment. Last month the Northern Wind Innovation Programme named 38 companies which will get to share a £3M fund specifically aimed at stimulating innovation and technological developments for the offshore wind industry in the North of England.
The programme will seek innovations in AC/DC electrical conversion, foundation systems and installation technologies and bearing quality improvement.