A centre for Innovation on the seabed

At the turn of the century, two game-changing events happened in the seaside town of Blyth in Northumberland.

Originally prospering on the back of coal and shipbuilding, the port took a giant leap into renewables with the construction in 2000 of the UK’s first two offshore wind turbines, leased by The Crown Estate; and the creation of the UK National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) in 2002. Fast forward to today, and Narec has transformed to become an important asset under the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, (ORE Catapult), our strategic partner in the innovation and R&D space.

As part of our Round 3 leasing in 2010, we announced we would support a dedicated test and demonstration offering, to showcase and validate new, larger turbines that could help to lower the cost of offshore wind. Narec was subsequently successful in achieving consent for the Blyth demonstration site, which it later divested to EDF Renewables for implementation.

In 2017 EDF Renewables opened the Blyth demonstration site with five new MHI vestas 8.3MW turbines. Utilising our test and demonstration lease, the project delivered the world’s largest wind turbine at that time, and showcased two other firsts:

  • The UK’s first gravity based substructures, built on the Tyne, then floated and sunk onto the seabed
  • The first utilisation of 66 KV array and export cables in the UK

As the wind farm at Blyth completed its first full year of operation in 2018, last year also marked the start of the construction of a new electricity interconnector between Norway and the UK, a joint project between National Grid North Sea Link Limited and Statnett. By working closely with the customer and co-locating over some of the route with the Blyth offshore demonstrator wind farm, we were able to provide cost effective routing within 12 nautical miles to shore for National Grid. Once completed in 2021, the interconnector will have the capacity to deliver 1.4GW through its high voltage direct current subsea cable. This will help facilitate opportunities for effective grid distribution of renewable energy, including hydropower from Norway and wind power from the UK.

Our Annual Report 2018/19

EDF Renewables is one of the UK’s leading renewable energy companies which develops, builds and operates generation projects with a focus on onshore and offshore wind as well as battery storage technology and new technologies. The company already operates more than 965MW with more than 2GW in planning and development. This include 1.1GW of consented projects including our Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind project in the Firth of Forth. EDF Renewables is a joint venture between EDF Energy and EDF Renewables Group. Mark Vyvyan–Robinson is the Director of Development and Investments at EDF Renewables.

 “The Blyth offshore demonstrator project uses innovation to drive down the cost of offshore wind which means a better deal for consumers. The successful implementation of new technology on the project shows EDF Group’s expertise in offshore wind which we are developing further in the UK, France and beyond. Complex projects like these are only made possible by working closely with experienced stakeholders like The Crown Estate.”

Visit EDF Renewables

Statnett and National Grid North Sea Link Limited are working together to construct an electricity link between Norway and the UK, North Sea Link (NSL). North Sea Link will connect the electricity systems of the two countries via high voltage subsea cables from Kvilldal in Norway to Blyth in the UK. Nick Reeves is NSL Contracts Manager.

“The seabed around the UK is becoming increasingly busy and the challenge for North Sea Link (NSL) was to identify a viable route to land. The Crown Estate’s proactive and partnership approach helped us to secure a route in both territorial waters and beyond. NSL will be the world’s longest subsea electricity cable and enable the sharing of zero carbon renewable energy between the UK and Norway. Once complete in 2021, NSL will make energy cleaner and more secure for consumers at both ends of the link.”

Find out more about NSL

Adrian Fox joined The Crown Estate in 2009 and is the Head of Offshore Energy Assets for the Energy, Minerals and Infrastructure group.  He leads the team responsible for active asset management of offshore infrastructure as well as the operational offshore wind fleet. 

“These two projects started at different times and for different customers but together they are an important signal for the future. Not just on how innovation can deliver, but as ever more offshore wind and other renewables enter the grid, it seems inevitable that interconnectors and offshore wind will find co-development an effective partnership.”

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