Wind Is the Wa Ay Forward; Winds of Change Are Blowing throughout Industry as Businesses Strive to Find a Place in the Booming Renewable Energy Sector. Just Days after Another Major Development Was Announced for Teesside, KRYSTA EAVES Looks at How This Growing Sector Is Helping Power the Region's Economic Future

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WIND power will propel the region forward, according to key industry players and business experts.

TAG Energy Solutions believes that focussing on wind power will revitalise the North-east economy.

Last week the company announced that it had secured funding to develop a pounds 20m wind farm manufacturing facility at Haverton Hill that could create up to 400 jobs. The facility will be built using funding from investors Platina Partners and the Environmental Technologies Fund (ETF).

The announcement sees the company switch its focus from more traditional markets of oil and gas to the new, green energy sector.

"We're focussing the business to the new offshore renewable industry," Alex Dawson, chief executive of TAG Energy Solutions, explained.

"Oil and gas in the North Sea is a very mature sector and therefore there's not the number of projects that there used to be in that particular industry.

"We've been oil and gas for some time but we see that wind is the way forward for the region and the business."

And Mr Dawson believes Teesside's location and heritage are responsible for drawing renewable energy businesses to the area.

He said: "All the skills needed in the oil and gas industry from project management to construction are transferrable to wind energy.

"But it's not just Teesside's heritage. Teesside is the perfect location for new developments because the North Sea is right on our doorstep meaning it's cost-effective for developers."

The facility will make the foundation and transition pieces to support the thousands of windmills that will be placed in the North Sea.

Mr Dawson said: "We will be making monopiles; transition pieces that weight the turbines to the sea bed. They are like steel cans, with a very large diameter which are the foundations for the wind turbines."

Monopiles are driven between 10m and 20m into the seabed. Their advantage is that no Tata piles in to turbines TATA Steel is also tapping into the wind sector - here on Teesside.

In August the steelmaker - which recently changed its name from Corus - unveiled a scheme for a pounds 31.5m wind turbine manufacturing plant on Teesside.

From its Redcar site, the company will build monopiles -steel foundation structures for wind turbines.

Monopiles, which can weigh up to 650 tonnes, are used to secure offshore turbines to the seabed.

It is believed the move will create 220 jobs.

Work is now under way re-equipping redundant buildings on the 3,000 acre site, for monopile production and shipment.

preparation of the seabed is necessary. But heavy piling equipment is required to secure the monopiles in place.

TAG says its facility will be the UK's first offshore windmill tubular foundation manufacturing facility for North Sea wind farms, something which Mr Dawson thinks is vital to British industry.

He said: "At the moment only about 20% of manufacturing for wind farms is done in the UK. It's mainly all manufactured in Europe and the Far East. But now companies like us are investing into the renewable energy industry, which is a real opportunity, not just for this region but for the whole country."

And leading business experts agree that renewable energy will be vital in strengthening the North-east economy.

Mark Hatton, partner at professional service company Ernst and Young in Newcastle, said: "Renewable energy presents a huge opportunity for the North-east. Securing investment in this sector will be transformational for our regional economy.

"The North-east has the skills, infrastructure, access to the North Sea and supply chain needed to make this region the best location in Europe for large scale renewable energy industry manufacturing and production."

He added: "The region must not miss this opportunity and needs the private and public sector to speak with one voice, through a strong leader, to attract the major manufacturers and their suppliers. …