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Wind power boom could generate jobs for Wirral
Multi-million pound initiatives to catapult Wirral into the forefront of offshore wind technology are in the pipeline.
The UK is recognised as the most attractive place in the world for investment in offshore wind and the government is seeking to ensure that this country is in a position to provide at least 50% of the content of future wind farms.
Further investment is strongly focussed on the Irish Sea where 1,000 turbines are planned at a cost of around £18bn.
Councillors have been told that the offshore wind sector presents a huge opportunity for Wirral and that capturing a share of the market would bring immediate jobs and open up supply chain and export opportunities in an expanding market.
Councillor Pat Hackett, cabinet member for regeneration and planning strategy, said: “This is great news for Wirral in terms of the creation of hundreds of new jobs in the offshore wind sector.
“With its location, docks and the skills of its workforce the situation is ideal for this development.
“In the present economic downturn these jobs will be most welcome – the sooner they come on stream the better. With Wirral Waters and the International Trade Centre on the horizon there are fantastic opportunities to look forward to.”
Shipbuilder Cammell Laird is already involved with energy company RWE npower Renewables to provide base construction and engineering support for the development of the Gwynt y Mor wind farmin the Irish Sea.
Work is under way for the installation of 160 wind turbine foundation over the next two years.
Wirral’s significant assets – its geographical location, port infrastructure and skilled labour force have resulted in the designation of the area as a Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering – one of only six such centres across the UK and the only one on the west coast.
Council officers are involved with other agencies to develop the CORE initiative to ensure that the area’s profile is raised in key European markets with the aim of attracting investment.
This follows a successful council application for a government regional growth fund grant which secured £5m to be invested over the next three years.
The funds will allow infrastructure improvements to be carried out at Cammell Laird to allow – among other things – the handling and assembly of wind turbine components.
Part of the regional fund grant will also be used to provide support to local businesses seeking to expand and diversify to take advantage of supply chain opportunities.
Further cash has been identified to invest in an Operation and Maintenance facility on a council-owned site at Cammell Laird.
Wind farms have an operational life of between 25-30 years. The turbines and other infrastructure require high-level maintenance which presently is conducted from multiple sites across Merseyside and North Wales.
The proposed Cammell Laird site – in Alabama Way, Birkenhead – has a concrete slipway into the Mersey.
Officers have also identified an opportunity to develop business accommodation for the offshore wind sector art a site known as Maritime Business Park – on land between the A41 and Campeltown Road, Birkenhead.
A mixture of regional growth fund and other grant sources have been earmarked to buy the land.
In a report to the next council cabinet meeting councillors have been told that offshore wind is a key sector in Wirral with the potential to create hundreds of new jobs and lever in significant new investment into the district.