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UK needs port hub for wind farms

Investment in a single port hub would best serve the English and Welsh renewables industry and deliver much needed jobs, a key government business adviser told NCE this week.

Ports ‘cluster’

UK Trade and Industry senior account manager Anthony Arkle said that this option could involve a cluster of ports operating in a single area.

It would be more internationally competitive than smaller ports spread further apart.

He warned that spreading investment in ports which are further apart would fail to create the expected jobs and expertise promised by the Round 3 offshore wind investment.

Department of Energy and Climate Change funding for ports infrastructure is worth £60M, and is likely to be spent in England.

But the government is undecided about how to spend the cash.

“In some ways it would be better to choose a winner,” said Arkle. He cited Germany’s Bremerhaven port as a good model. Ten years ago Bremerhaven decided to adapt its traditional strengths of shipbuilding, heavy engineering and manufacture to the emerging renewables market.

Supply chain help

Following this, major renewables firms such as REPower and blade manufacturer Multibird decided to use the port as a base.

This resulted in a supply chain forming around these firms and this brought jobs and expertise with it. The move was also helped by support from local politicians and tax incentives.

But some renewables firms warned that Arkle’s idea might not suit the UK.

“Germany has a much shorter coastline than the UK so it makes sense to back one port,” said RWE Innogy director project construction and marine operations Thierry Aelens, who was speaking at GDS International’s Power and Renewables board meeting last week.

“ABP has the money − it just needs to decide what it wants to develop.”

Thierry Aelens, RWE Innogy

“The UK has a huge coastline and there will need to be many different hubs.” He argued that the UK had access to funding for such an investment.

“[Ports operator] ABP has the money − it just needs to decide what it wants to develop.”

Aelens agreed that the UK’s readiness to contribute to jobs in the renewables sector still had to be clarified, for example in the manufacture of turbines.

“The government still has plenty of challenges to develop the Round 3 offshore wind programme and at the moment there’s no UK manufacturing base to enable it,” added Arkle.

Ninety per cent of the orders for the recently built Thanet wind farm off the Essex coast were placed overseas.
Scotland has already begun to pursue a port cluster plan of its own and has £70M from its government to do so.

The Scottish Government has identified Moray Firth in the Highlands and the Firth of Forth/Tay ports further south for their potential to form a hub for offshore wind.

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