Following their purchase of Blade Dynamics, General Electric (GE) is planning on a new research facility at Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom. The site will be a renewable energy technology campus where research, testing and development for onshore and offshore wind energy tech and hydropower will be conducted.
Currently, it generates 5% of its electricity needs from offshore wind plants and expects this to increase to 10% by 2020. There are 30 offshore wind farms with an operational capacity of 5.1 gigawatts (GW), with another 4.5 GW already in different phases of development.
As part of the planned research center, GE is building a wind turbine manufacturing plant with 24-hour capability. The company received permission from the Southampton City Council in April 2017. This is great news for the city as it will bring in 250 new jobs including 150 high-tech and engineering positions.
GE chose the site of the former Vosper Thornycroft (VT Group) shipbuilding plants. It was also a manufacturing plant where the World War II plane called the Spitfire was built. One reason for choosing the site was its proximity to the University of Southampton Science Park, which also happens to be the location of Blade Dynamics offices. The company reiterated that Southampton is an excellent location with a skilled and technical manpower pool available in the area, and also due to the proximity to University of Southampton.
According to GE, once completed, the research center indicates the importance of Southampton as an engineering and innovation center, and is vital to GE’s renewable energy investment strategy for the United Kingdom.
Not everyone, however, is happy about building on the site. Councilor Warwick Payne, representing Woolston on the Southampton City Council, raised the issue about the noise that the 24-hour wind turbine factory generates. He is seeking feedback from residents, and this might affect any decisions on whether any future plant expansions push through.
The GE acquisition’s goal was acquiring Blade Dynamics modular blade technology. Among other things, the advancements in the use of composites in blade manufacturing can be a decisive advantage for wind farms. In addition, GE believes that modular blades have the potential to become a transformational technology for wind turbines. Modular blades have several advantages over conventional blades, including scalable architecture which leads to lower manufacturing costs. It also allows for a better cost-effectiveness in transportation.
Starting in early 2016, Blade Dynamics was working on testing a prototype 78-meter (255.9-foot) long D78 blade at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult research center located in Blyth, Northumberland. It also has other prototyping and research sites in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire and Cowes, Isle of Wight, as well as a facility in New Orleans, LA. Blade Dynamics products are for use at offshore wind farms.
The UK is the leading offshore wind power generator in Europe. Currently, it generates 5% of its electricity needs from offshore wind plants and expects this to increase to 10% by 2020. There are 30 offshore wind farms with an operational capacity of 5.1 gigawatts (GW), with another 4.5 GW already in different phases of development.
Recently, China signed an agreement with the UK to help develop and setup offshore wind farms along with other renewable energy plants along the South China Sea coast. The UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) will be working with their Chinese counterparts on 5 offshore renewable energy (ORE) tech projects, including wave, tidal and offshore wind facilities. These projects are ground breaking and will leave a bold impact in society.