‘We have a buzz’: How green energy projects are reforming the north

There was “a lot of sadness” in Mary Lanigan’s corner Yorkshire when the local steel mills – where generations had worked – began to be demolished.

But now, there is a different feeling in the air in Redcar and Cleveland. “We have a buzz,” Lanigan says.

This is one of many areas in northern England that have suffered a decline in the heavy industry that was once its beating heart.

Decades later, it is at the center of a new industrial revolution. But this time, it’s green.

There are a few renewables energy projects in the works, including plans for a wind turbine blade factory for Dogger Bank – which promises to be the largest offshore wind farm in the world – and an innovative inland hydrogen test project.

Lanigan, who is the leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, says you can feel the excitement “on the street,” with locals talking about how this booming green industry will benefit “younger generations”.

And studies suggest that acceleration is exactly what they need, as former industrial areas are rated as having some of the worst levels of social mobility in the UK.

A man walks along the shore in front of a Teesside wind farm in the North Sea off Redcar


Thousands of new jobs are being promised for the north while green opportunities are emerging in areas that have lost heavy industry. And in some cases, these projects – somewhat symbolically – take over former industrial sites.

“Where our operation and maintenance base is built, there used to be a shipyard,” says Felicity Wann, operations manager for wind turbine Dogger Bank. The Independent. “It was the Red Shipyard years ago, and my grandfather was a baker there.”

She adds: “You can see that transition from just a few generations ago: a really heavy industrial plant that has declined, to a return to having our net-zero carbon-neutral building on the same position, managing offshore wind. Farm.

“It’s really exciting to see. For me, it’s a really tangible example of how this has changed and regenerated in just a few years. ”

In Teesside, new wind turbine blade factory is planned on the site of a former steel mill. And near the former mining town of Blyth in Northumberland, a giant factory – which makes batteries for electric vehicles – is being moved to the old power station.

Melanie Onn, the former Labor MP for Great Grimsby who now works for RenewableUK, says this is “important” for communities that have suffered “a fairly significant loss of core industry” and felt their areas were left behind.

A wind turbine overlooks the former mining town of Blyth

(AFP between Getty)

These projects, and the jobs and investments they promise, “mean a lot” to those who have witnessed this decline and have been left wondering what is ready for their children and grandchildren, she says.

The government has promised to close the gap between left and more prosperous areas in Britain with its “leveling”Agenda. But long-awaited plans unveiled earlier this year left the north subdued.

However, there are still high hopes that renewable energy projects could help revive some areas.

“The government often thinks of leveling up and reaching network zero as if they were completely separate missions,” says Henri Murison, of the Northern Power Partnership. The Independent.

“In reality, in many cases, they are completely tied together.”

The group’s director, who represents business and civic leaders in the north, also uses the planned factory near Blyth – an area he says faces “significant socio-economic problems” – as an example.

“Its economic benefits are as significant as its environmental benefits,” Murison says.

He adds that Grimsby, which has suffered from the downturn in the fishing industry, is reaping the benefits of offshore wind investment and is “exploding”.

Lanigan, the councilor for Redcar and Cleveland, also believes the planned green energy projects will “completely and completely transform” the area.

“We need this because we are in the north. I always thought, in the past, we didn’t get what we needed for reinforcement, ”she says.

Matt Baker, the leader on climate change at Northumberland City Council, says he also sees the push to the net zero as working to improve pollution levels hand in hand with the climate as more investment and jobs come. But it is essential to make sure that it is. the work does go to local people.

Onn, of Renewables UK, says there is a “large amount” of work to be done to ensure that local communities can take advantage of most new opportunities.

“We know we have skills gaps right now that we’re trying to overcome, and to train people now to fill the jobs as and when they arrive,” she says.

Councils and companies count The Independent they work with schools and colleges to ensure that children are taught the skills needed for a thriving local industry, and also make them aware of careers in dealing with climate crisis.

But it is not just for future generations. Tom Nightingale, Equinor’s northeastern stakeholder manager who is involved in the Dogger Bank wind turbine project, says it was the other way around when a student came to him on a recent school visit.

“They said, ‘My dad, he’s an electrical engineer, could he come and work in the wind farm?’

Wann, of Dogger Bank, says there was already a high demand for jobs. She says the project recently recruited 10 technicians – most local – out of about 450 applications.

But the positive effects of a green revolution in former industrial cores go beyond delivering jobs.

Onn mentions how Hull, an old fishing hub, showed a huge wind turbine blade in its center in honor of a nearby Siemens factory when it was named the City of Culture of Britain five years ago.

A wind turbine is on display in Hull in 2017


“There was a sense of a new identity, something else for the city to be proud of in the area,” the group’s deputy chief said.

Lanigan says: “We can’t look back on the steel industry that was there – even though it cared about the community, the economy and everything else.

“Things have to go on.”

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