Narec in advanced talks on wind turbine tests
The Clothier Laboratories were opened by William Wedgewood Benn on May 12, 1970, as a purpose-built high-voltage facility commissioned for Reyrolle. Alphonse Reyrolle established his first Hebburn factory in 1901 and joined forces with Henry Clothier to create the company. It provided switchgear for the power generation and had a workforce of 10,000 people at its peak.
Narec took control of the facility in 2004, and it now serves regional, national and overseas clients including Trench, ABB, Arriva and JDR Cable. It made £750,000 in commercial revenue last year.
Mr Neumann said: “Historically the service offering has been used predominantly by manufacturers but as manufacturing in the UK is not growing substantially, we’re finding more and more that we’re developing relationships with utilities and network operators.
“They want to make sure the kit they’re installing is fit for purpose and that the kit they already have is robust. The facility is an ultra-high voltage test facility. We can generate impulses to simulate lightning. We’re a big facility with big bangs and big sparks.
“It doesn’t immediately strike you why this would interest Narec, but electrical networks are a fundamental part of the power system in the future.”
The Clothier Laboratories are being used to test the robustness of networks taking power from offshore locations to onshore sites, as well as to big load centres in the centre of the country. Narec recently opened a wind power training facility in Blyth, and Mr Neumann says the work in Hebburn is “another string to our bow”.
He said: “We can provide another service, that of resilience and reliability. We expect that when the standards for this technology are reissued, manufacturers will have to comply with them and seek certification, which we can offer.
“We currently have 15 people at Clothier and we have a plan to grow our team.”