A GOVERNMENT minister has praised Tees Valley’s industrial strength on a day when he predicted thousands more jobs in wind energy.
Energy Minister Michael Fallon officially launched the EDF Energy Renewables Teesside Offshore Wind Farm which was built from a base in Hartlepool.
It produces more than 65 megawatts of electricity and has officially opened off the Hartlepool coast, with a team of workers in town appointed to keep it running.
It will produce enough power to supply 40,000 homes a year and was jointly opened by Mr Fallon and EDF Group chief executive Henri Proglio.
EDF chiefs confirmed that a team of 19 people would be based at the Port of Hartlepool in a new building which is still under construction.
They will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the 27 turbines as well as the electrical systems and cabling.
Speaking to an invited audience of more than 80 guests, Mr Fallon said: “This project is creating high value, long-term jobs including some in Hartlepool.”
He said the operations team and the MPI adventure - the turbine installation vessel - had both operated out of the town during the construction phase of the wind farm. Mr Fallon said wind energy was a vital part of the UK’s energy future.
“It employs 7,000 people directly now and by 2020 it will support 35,000 jobs. This is an industry in which Britain is a clear world leader,” said Mr Fallon.
Speaking to the Mail, EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz also stressed the importance of Hartlepool and its nuclear plant which the power giants also own.
And when asked about the prospects of a new nuclear power station, he said the current plant was “doing well and performing very strongly.
“We decided a few years ago to extend the lifespan of the plant and it will apply to at least 2019,” said Mr de Rivaz.
Mr Fallon, who was also due to open a gas power station in Nottinghamshire, said:” Opening two new energy generating projects is proof that the UK is a strong focus for new energy investment.”
He said the energy they produce would mean less of a reliance on imports.
Mr Proglio said the investment in Tees Valley was a demonstration to a long term commitment to “investing in new, low carbon electricity in the UK, and contributing to a diverse energy mix.”