North East perfectly placed to benefit from green boom, experts say

by | Dec 12, 2023 | Kinewell Energy, Press Release

The North East is perfectly placed to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the shift to Net Zero, according to two businesses at the cutting-edge of developing the technologies helping accelerate the global transition to renewable energy.

The comments, made in the wake of the UN Climate Change Conference COP 28 in Dubai, follow the Government’s unveiling of its ‘Transmission Acceleration Action Plan’ last month in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement.

The action plan is the Government’s response to 43 recommendations aiming to half the end-to-end build time for new transmission infrastructure, a major bottleneck for the connection of new renewable generation, from around 12-14 years to seven years.

The Government said it hopes the plan will ‘ensure significant investment in new energy projects is supported by modern grid infrastructure – necessary to bring clean power to households and businesses while delivering emissions reduction targets.’

Dr Andrew Jenkins, founder of Kinewell Energy, is one of the business leaders who believes the move could present significant growth opportunities for the North East. The company is currently recruiting new staff as it looks to double in size and capitalise on the global economic opportunities presented by the shift to Net Zero.

The firm’s KDOTS software – launched in June – was developed alongside researchers at Durham University and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to help wind farm developers rapidly identify the easiest, most cost-effective ways of transmitting energy from offshore wind farms and connect to the grid.

Using advanced mathematics, the KDOTS solution has already been used by Northern Gas Network’s HyCoRe discovery project to consider how offshore wind farms could connect into the gas network via green hydrogen and bypass the electricity grid integration challenges the new plan aims to overcome.

Dr Jenkins said: “The UK is targeting 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030, compared to just 14 GW today – this means we need to deliver three times more offshore wind in the next six years than has been achieved over the last two decades.

“The biggest bottleneck in delivering this new offshore wind is connecting to the electricity grid. We therefore welcome the UK Government’s commitment to halving the timeline for building new transmission infrastructure, and especially for advocating the role of automated design software to achieve it.

“At Kinewell Energy, over the last decade, we have pioneered world leading software using advanced mathematics and AI to automate the design of new offshore wind farms and how they connect to the grid – delivering the much-needed productivity gains the UK Government are seeking.

“The region is a real hotbed of innovation when it comes to the race to Net Zero, underpinned by a strong research base and regional innovation funding interventions.  With the right measures in place to help innovative regional businesses continue to accelerate their net Net Zero focused products and services, there is no reason why the North East can’t become a globally recognised, leading region to start and grow a business in this space.”

Michael Flynn, partner and co-founder of Unasys, is another who is backing the region to make the most of its potential, as well as calling for increased adoption of productivity enhancing software tools to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind.

The firm’s multi-tier Navitas software helps wind farm developers optimise the life cycle process from concept to operation.

Mr Flynn said: “Utilising our experience in delivering complex oil and gas infrastructure projects, we have created digital tools that help developers optimise the way they define, scope, schedule, construct, commission, and handover, their facilities.

“Using Navitas we recently delivered a Visual Impact study for the 1.6 GW East Wilmington field in North Carolina in less than 6 weeks, leading to project sanction.

“The study also included an inter-array cable layout created by Kinewell Energy’s KLOC optimisation software, showing how North East tech companies are working successfully together in the digital environment not only here in the UK, but across the globe.”

Kinewell Energy’s KLOC and KDOTS software, and Unasys’ Navitas software, were developed with match-funding from the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s £3.5m TIGGOR programme delivered by ORE Catapult.

Speaking yesterday [11 December] during a visit to the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in Blyth, Elected Metro Mayor for the North of Tyne, Jamie Driscoll, said: “We all want the North East to have really good jobs and I’ve been meeting Kinewell, one of the companies that have benefited from our Technology, Innovation and Green Growth in Offshore Renewables (TIGGOR) programme.

“They’re developing things that will enable faster and cheaper development of wind farms. But we also need lots of people to perform these good quality jobs, which is why talking to Henna Bains of Kinewell and her colleagues is great. I want to see more women in engineering. I’m an engineer by profession and this is the future of our economy.”

The support has led to both companies creating jobs over the past 12 months, with Kinewell Energy actively recruiting for numerous new roles following a hugely successful year for the business. The company’s TIGGOR project won ‘Project of the Year’ at the Dynamites Awards in November, the North East’s IT and Technology Awards, after delivering incredible economic contributions to the region, beating off stiff competition from Greggs, Sage and Vertu Motors.

In total, the company has created twice as many jobs than expected by the TIGGOR programme, thanks to the commercial uptake of its productivity improving software tools by Equinor, SSE Renewables, and others, contributing to the Government’s aim of accelerating offshore wind deployment.

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