A pioneering joint project between Teesside University and a County Durham energy software specialist could help bring to fruition an ambitious plan for offshore wind farms to generate enough electricity to power every home in the UK within a decade.
The Prime Minister recently announced a £160m investment to upgrade ports and factories building wind turbines, creating 2,000 jobs in construction and supporting a further 60,000.
He said he wanted the UK to become the ‘world leader in clean wind energy’, with offshore wind farms generating enough electricity to power every home in the country within a decade.
Only around a fifth of the UK’s electricity is currently generated by wind power, but innovative technology developed by Sedgefield-based Quorum in a partnership with Teesside University’s Centre for Sustainable Engineering is aiding the launch of new renewable energy plants across the UK.
The firm developed a system which connects to wind turbines, allowing control of their output. A prototype built during the one-year project demonstrated the system’s ability to automatically control wind farms, many of which are in remote or hard-to-reach places, in order to meet the balancing demands of the National Grid.
This new capability has been embedded in Quorum’s Sentinel product and has been implemented by a number of the company’s customers to enhance the operation of offshore wind farms and other power generation and storage facilities that help power millions of homes every day.
Professor Michael Short, who leads the Centre for Sustainable Engineering at Teesside University, said: “The recent announcement from central government of their ambition to power all UK housing stock through wind energy by 2030 is welcome news, and the research and innovation expertise at Teesside University can play a significant role in helping deliver this ambition.
“The new conceptual framework we developed for remotely controlling generators was first presented to an International Conference on Emerging Technologies organised by the IEEE in Luxembourg in summer 2015.
“The proof-of-concept for offshore wind applications was in place by 2016, following consultancy with the company. An internship at Quorum enabled one of our graduates to help drive this forward to commercial readiness and integrate with their existing products.”
Professor Short added: “It is very satisfying that this is now helping to power homes throughout the UK with offshore wind, and provides a great example of how our world-leading expertise in sustainable engineering and informatics can enhance local business and support the region to take a leading role in the drive towards Net Zero.”
Boris Johnson has said the Government was raising its target for offshore wind power capacity by 2030 from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts. The new scheme, welcomed by Greenpeace UK, will see the money invested into manufacturing in Teesside and Humber, as well as sites in Scotland and Wales.
Paul Fothergill, of Quorum, said: “The project carried out with Teesside University allowed Quorum to demonstrate the feasibility of controlling a wind farm automatically, using instructions from National Grid without the need for manual intervention.
“The knowledge and experienced gained during this prototype project were used to enhance our product and were vital to the development of an interface able to control offshore wind farms, and other renewable resources, that can produce sufficient power for millions of homes every day.
“This would have not been possible without the assistance from Teesside University and their expertise in bringing together these complex control and communications technologies into a cohesive solution.”