Plans unveiled for new UK wind power research centre

Hundreds of new jobs are to be created under a £100 million investment in a new wind turbine research centre, it was announced today.

Mitsubishi said it was looking at a number of sites in the UK to carry out research into building the world's biggest turbine blades. The UK government is supporting the development with grants of up to £30 million.

Up to 200 skilled jobs will be created over the next few years but business secretary Lord Mandelson said the move could lead to the creation of up to 1,500 jobs in the future.

Lord Mandelson and climate change secretary Ed Miliband signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi executives at the business secretary's London offices today to mark the investment.

Mitsubishi is looking at a number of locations in the UK where a factory will be built for the research to be carried out. A prototype turbine will be built within three years and the first full-scale production will start after four years.

The turbines will be for offshore wind farms and will be offered for sale in overseas markets such as Germany, the United States and China, as well as the UK.

Lord Mandelson said the announcement was a "real opportunity" for the UK to become a world leader, adding: "No country makes offshore wind turbines of the size we are talking about today on a commercial scale.

"Twenty years ago the UK was a leading centre for onshore wind technology, but we failed to capitalise on that by not providing the right climate for growth. We are determined not to let that happen again. We are creating the largest market in the world for offshore wind and we intend to build and support the industry."

Mr Miliband added: "This decision by Mitsubishi is a sign that the UK is starting to turn its leadership in offshore wind generation into leadership in manufacturing.

"We have the wind resource and we now have an industry that is really starting to grow. This is possible because of our domestic market and our commitment to supporting companies that locate here. It is another step to turning Britain into a leading green manufacturing centre."

Mitsubishi chief executive Akio Fukui said: "Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe is delighted to be working in partnership with the UK Government to create this exciting opportunity for the development of world-class offshore wind technology in the UK.

"We have been working with UK Trade and Investment for some time and we look forward to further growing our offshore wind business with UK-based partner and supply chain businesses from 2010, bringing much needed competition into the offshore wind turbine supply market, and economic benefit to the UK."

The government also announced £18.5 million funding for an offshore wind test site off the coast near Blyth in north east England, which will test blades up to 328ft (100m) long.

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: "The Mitsubishi announcement is a massive vote of confidence in the UK's renewable sector. We are clearly now open for business and, importantly, we are now winning business.

"The green manufacturing revolution is now becoming a reality. It comes on the same day that Siemens, alongside the Carbon Trust, has made a key investment into Marine Current Turbines, a leading British marine energy company.

"Both announcements signal clearly that the UK can and will create significant economic benefit and attract inward investment from the move to a low-carbon economy, particularly in the offshore renewables sector."

British Wind and Energy Association chief executive Maria McCaffery said: "BWEA is delighted with today's announcement, which underlines the keen interest of major international players in the UK wind energy programme.

"This tremendous commitment from Mitsubishi and the UK Government follows last week's major announcement of the start of the new Clipper Windpower factory in Newcastle upon Tyne, which will be home to the largest wind turbine blade in the world.

"This all signals the rebirth of manufacturing in the UK, with an estimated 70,000 green-collar jobs to be created on the back of over £100 billion of private sector investment.

"The combined contribution from both on and offshore wind is set to contribute up to half of the UK's domestic electricity requirement by 2020, dramatically reducing our dependency on imported fossil fuels and displacing millions of tonnes of harmful CO2 every year. It is not an exaggeration to speak of offshore wind as the new North Sea oil."

Joss Garman, energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "If the market wanted a clear signal on which way the UK energy sector is moving, the manufacturer of the world's biggest nuclear reactors has just sent it - and the answer is wind.

"Britain is perfectly positioned to be the motor of the global offshore wind industry. We have ambitious renewable energy targets creating strong and sustained demand, plus our windswept coastline and extensive territorial waters mean that our geography is ideal.

"Today's announcement is good news for jobs, good news for energy security and good news for the climate."

Not everyone welcomed the government's planned grants though. Godfrey Bloom, Ukip MEP and energy spokesman said: "To give 30 million quid of our money to create 200 jobs in four years' time is a joke.

"Do the maths. That is £150,000 per job. The world hasn't warmed in 15 years, according to the Met Office, and this government is still sloshing our money around like a drunken sailor to stop it doing so."

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