A project to build the world’s largest wind turbine blade in Newcastle has been shelved.
Clipper Windpower, a Californian company, was to have developed and built the blade for the Crown Estate’s Britannia Project, a 10-megawatt offshore turbine prototype.
The plant, which had been expected to ultimately employ 500 people, was hailed at the groundbreaking in February 2010 by Gordon Brown, then prime minister, as a sign of UK aspiration to become a world leader in offshore wind.
United Technologies Corporation, a US group that acquired Clipper last year, terminated the project, citing “unprecedented global financial challenges which continue to impact the global economy, including wind energy development”. It has decided to focus effort on land-based technologies, although it remains “bullish on wind”.
The Crown Estate confirmed that UTC had returned the entire £1.6m investment plus value added tax due under a termination agreement.
“The Clipper project had an important role in stimulating the offshore wind turbine market in the UK, resulting in the development of the next generation of offshore wind turbines,” it said. “The Crown Estate has no plans to invest in another offshore wind turbine prototype and we are continuing to work with turbine manufacturers and UK ports to bring turbine suppliers to the UK.”
Clipper Windpower had also been offered £4.4m towards the Britannia blade development by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and £2.5m for gearbox parts. Only £300,000 had so far been paid to the company. “We are exploring repayment,” said the department. Clipper had also been offered £5m by One North East, the regional development agency, but had not drawn it down.
The department insisted the UK’s aspirations for global leadership were not threatened. “A number of major global players have signalled plans to invest in the UK sector,” it said.