Sunderland offshore specialist Frontier Technical explores new renewable energy markets
A SUNDERLAND-based offshore specialist has the wind in its sails after being approached by a US state to help it become a leader in renewable energy.
Frontier Technical is leading a consortium of UK organisations made up of private sector businesses, public sector bodies and educational institutes to develop revolutionary technology with the potential to transform the global energy industry.
Founded by managing director Trevor Hardcastle, Frontier Technical has already pioneered an environmentally-friendly way of installing offshore wind farms with its patented “MARLIN Modular Floating Platform” and is set to build on this success with its latest project – commissioned by the State of Oregon.
Business Oregon, the business investment arm of the state, caught wind of Trevor’s MARLIN invention after researching new, innovative ways to improve its carbon footprint. The state has ambitious plans to become a fully renewable state over the next two decades and believes Frontier’s technology could help propel the state into the future.
Trevor said: “We were absolutely delighted to be approached by Colin Sears and the team at Business Oregon and to hear all about their plans to become a fully renewable state.
“We flew over last month to visit the team and spent five days attending events, visiting potential sites and discussing how best to manufacture and transport the platforms in the most environmentally-friendly way possible.
“The talks were extremely positive and they really bought into what we do. We’ve also agreed to show them around the North East - with visits to our testbed site at Port of Sunderland, our office at Washington Business Centre and the Offshore Renewable Catapult in Blyth as well as making introductions to our partners.
“The next step is to work with our partner companies to explore how our technology can be adapted to the US market and specifically the Pacific Ocean. We can’t wait to get to work.”
Frontier Technical has established a consortium of experts, made up of Cramlington-based electronic vehicle parts manufacturer AVID Technology, Stockton-based engineering firm Francis Brown, Sunderland City Council, Port of Sunderland, Durham University, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, and the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC).
Together, the organisations will share best practice and will work collaboratively to ensure the technology is also suitable for the US market. It will then be trialled in the North Sea, just off Port of Sunderland, before further tests are held in Oregon.
Colin Sears, business recruitment officer at Business Oregon, added: “The State of Oregon has ambitious plans to become a fully renewable state and we believe the technology developed by Frontier Technical could play a huge role in helping us achieve our goal.
“Frontier Technical has developed a very interesting product and we believe the Pacific Ocean would be a great location for the company to test its pilot projects ahead of them being rolled out across North America.
“Offshore wind is in the early stages in the US and Oregon hopes that – by working with industry pioneers like Frontier Technical – the state can position itself at the forefront of the USA’s renewable sector.”
Frontier Technical has been supported by Sunderland City Council since its launch in 2015. Additional support has also recently been secured through a grant from the ‘Great Exhibition of the North’ GX project. The grant will help Frontier Technical protect the intellectual property of its new product in a number of countries around the world including the USA.
The company now harbors ambitions to open a facility at Port of Sunderland where float modules will eventually be mass produced. The port’s extensive docks and direct access to the sea will allow swift direct delivery of raw materials to a factory, and easy exporting of finished goods to overseas markets directly from the port by container ships.
Trevor added: “We have pinpointed Port of Sunderland due to its perfect location on the North Sea coast. Due to the nature of our work, we could find ourselves working anywhere in the world, so being well connected is vital to us.
“Not only is the port located at the heart of the North Sea but the improved rail links mean we would also be able to export MARLIN Modular products directly by container trains from the factory in the Port of Sunderland via the Channel Tunnel to coastal locations across the Eurasia continent. It’s perfect.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of Port of Sunderland, said: “We are delighted to be working with Frontier Technical – it’s an incredibly innovative company with the potential to revolutionise the global renewable energy market.
“Over the coming years, it not only has the potential to create skilled jobs but could also help reduce harmful fossil fuel emissions and bring energy to parts of the world currently without electricity. We’re delighted that Sunderland could be set to play a key role in changing the face of energy generation and supply.”
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