Students see 81m blades in production and have a sneak peek at the £186m factory expansion project
Around 50 fortunate Teesside University engineering students had a full-access tour of Siemens Gamesa’s (SGRE) Hull blade factory this week as part of an innovation challenge project being run in partnership with RWE’s Sofia Offshore Wind Farm.
The students, all part of Teesside University's Foundation Year Engineering Degree, had a sneak peek at SGRE’s £186m Hull factory expansion project as well as the production of 81m turbine blades destined for installation at two major offshore wind farms.
The visit was organised as part of innovation challenge set by the Sofia team and integrated into the student’s course. The students have been tasked with working in small groups to develop new ways to inspect offshore wind turbine blades.
The challenge is being overseen by Gill Lacey, Senior Lecturer at the School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies who said: "Being able to visit the factory has given them a real insight into how blades are made, their scale and complexity, which will be hugely inspiring as they continue to work on their blade inspection concepts.”
The key brief for the students is to come up with feasible methods for blade inspection that minimise or remove the need for personnel rope access, working from height and turbine inspection downtime. As an added incentive the teams that develop the top two concepts will receive cash prizes.
Sofia Project Director RWE’s Matthew Swanwick said: “We hope that through opportunities like this innovation challenge and the blade factory visit, we are able to give the future generation a better understanding of the offshore wind sector and perhaps inspire them in their future career choices".
The factory tour gave the students a comprehensive overview of the blade fabrication process, from glass-cutting to finishing and the processes in between.
SGRE's Hull Factory Director, Andy Sykes said: “It was a pleasure to host the next generation of renewable energy engineers at our wind turbine blade factory in Hull. They represent the talent that will deliver net zero and combat the climate emergency. SGRE has a well-established nurture young engineering and STEM talent, and it’s great to be able also to enthuse the engineers of tomorrow training with our long-term partners, RWE".
One of the Teesside University students on the visit, Eve Lynas, said: “Today’s trip has really opened my eyes to the mechanical and renewable side to engineering, I thoroughly enjoyed it”.
Sofia will be the first offshore wind farm in the world to install SGRE’s flagship 14MW direct drive turbines, the evolutionary SG 14-222-DD. Installation of the 100 turbines, each standing 252m tall, will get underway in 2025.
Teesside University students with a blade cross-section are from left: Bryant Hackett, Eve Lynas and Princewill Ikpeka.