Wind exhibition starts 'ignition sequence'
THIS area was well represented at RenewableUK's Global Offshore Wind 2012 exhibition, held last week, with the Humber being pushed as one brand to a huge industry audience. Simon Faulkner reports.
A key strategy in promoting the region to potential investors was unveiled in the capital, with a captive audience from the burgeoning sector, and important policy shapers part of the huge delegation.
ExCel in London's Docklands saw the launch of the new Humber Renewables brand. Led by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), 15 local companies and five local authorities came together to exhibit under one banner at the event.
And the joint approach was deemed a success by those involved.
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Richard Kendall, manager of the Humber LEP, said: "It's the first time we've done it and I think it's been very successful. Businesses in the area have always said that the Humber has to act together when it's promoting itself."
Mr Kendall said he and the other Humber representatives had been stressing the message that the region was the front runner in terms of location, land availability and infrastructure for offshore wind developments.
"Our offer in those terms is unmatched but in the past we haven't shouted about it much, but with this exhibition and other promotional activity we are undertaking will make sure people know about what we have to offer.
"The response has been really positive. What's really good is that people are remembering the stand and are remembering the Humber, and more than anything that's what we want to achieve from this process."
Represented within the Humber Renewables brand was the Grimsby Renewables Partnership (GRP), which comprises the Port of Grimsby East, Edmundson Electrical, Windpower Support, Blackrow Engineering, the Grimsby Institute, RES and North East Lincolnshire Council.
RES's Chris Holden gave an update. He said: "The constitution has now been approved by the directors and the next stage is that we will be issuing an invitation to membership."
Explaining the importance of companies joining under one banner, he said: "It's to ensure that if there are opportunities out there, Grimsby grabs them.
"Companies can do things on their own but it will cost them significantly more to achieve the level of visibility that they could by joining a group of people that have got a common goal in mind.
"It gives a strong voice to the area and allows us to speak to MPs and ministers with a common message."
Emphasing GRP's key role within the Humber Renewables brand, he said: "Another things that GRP can do is that when the Humber does its marketing, ensure that Greater Grimsby is given a slot in that marketing, and we can assist in the education of some of the decision makers and say that some of those operations are taking place in Grimsby.
"It's up to GRP to take hold of the Humber Renewables brand and push that forward."
Also present on the stand was Team Humber Marine Alliance (THMA), an organisation which represents 160 companies and 16,000 employees in the region.
Chairman and director Mark O'Reilly said: "We have been exhibiting at exhibitions like this for some time but we needed a bigger presence. We've combined all our efforts to produce this and raise the profile of the Humber.
"This is a fantastic opportunity and there is a lot happening already but we need to do more. Things are starting to benefit companies in the region and we haven't really got to the big stuff yet."
Neil Etherington, group development director at Able UK, said: "It's great to see everybody working together, north and south bank.
"This conference has a better collective feel than in previous years. I think last year the industry was stalled. This year we can feel the ignition sequence starting.
"We are in a better place both in terms of the progress we have made with planning and in terms of where we are with the sector itself.
"Three years ago we were barely known and now it's a completely different dynamic. We have got 800 acres and you couldn't have a better location in terms of serving the major North Sea wind farms, and also being able to reach out further into the emerging continental market.
"If we look in to the future I'm sure there will be some form of Round Four. Wind is a free fuel and provided there is space to put the wind turbines somewhere in the North Sea it is going to be a sector that will continue to grow."
The planning application for Able's proposed marine energy park on the south bank of the Humber is currently being considered by the National Infrastructure Directorate, with a final decision due by the beginning of next year.
Mr Etherington said: "All things being equal we could be on site by the summer 12 months from now, with the first quays being ready in 2015, and completion by year's end, creating 4,000 plus jobs on site."