Why Turbines at Sea Would Work for Us; OFFSHORE WIND FARMS North Can Lead the World and Create Jobs

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Byline: William Green Political Editor

THOUSANDS of jobs could be created in the North East by a massive expansion of offshore wind farms, experts predicted last night.

Stephen Wilson, from the respected New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in Blyth, said the region has the skills and experience to lead the world in building offshore wind turbines while the regional development agency said the developments could leave the North East in "pretty good shape".

The assessment came after the Government agency Crown Estate, owner of the seabed around Britain, revealed 11 sites have been earmarked as potentially suitable for new offshore wind farms - including off the North East coast. They could be operational from 2015.

Successful bidders will get exclusive rights to develop farms with the Crown Estate paying up to 50% of planning costs and funding work to speed up developments.

Up to 25 gigawatts of capacity could be produced - up from 8GW currently being developed - as the Government aims to expand offshore wind farms to provide enough to power every British household.

Five thousand turbines will be erected offshore, with the biggest site in round three of the scheme, to be off the North East coast.

Mr Wilson said the North East's history of building ships and North Sea oil rigs was "ideal" with the region having the skilled workers able to develop, build and maintain machinery that could cope with the extreme marine environment.

Companies along the supply chain would benefit with the Tees, Tyne and Blyth offering routes to move equipment and maintain offshore stations, said Mr Wilson, NaREC's wind and marine director.

"The North East has a real opportunity to become a centre for offshore wind," he said. "And NaREC is becoming a technology development centre for offshore wind and we are investigating the options for creating a campus in Blyth to allow new technology developers to cluster around NaREC.

"If we want to maintain a lead from a manufacturing and carbon reduction point of view we need to do these big bold projects. …