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Sunderland tech consortium secures US backing

A Sunderland-based tech consortium that is hoping to revolutionize the offshore energy industry has been approached by the US state of Oregon to help them push forward their renewable energy plans.

Frontier Technical is a consortium of UK organisations aiming to revolutionise tech in the global energy industry. One of their projects is an environmentally friendly way of installing offshore wind farms with its patented MARLIN Modular Floating Platform, which could reduce turnaround time and costs.

It was this technology that caught the eye of Business Oregon — the investment arm of the US state — after they were looking for new ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Oregon is aiming to lead the way for renewable energy in the US, with ambitious plans to become a fully renewable state over the next two decades.

Trevor Hardcastle, managing director at Frontier Technical, 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 combines the expertise of a range of North East firms, including Cramlington-based 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).

These organisations will work together to trial the technology in the North Sea, just off Port of Sunderland, before further tests will be 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.”

The company now hopes to open a facility at Port of Sunderland, where its float modules will eventually be mass produced.

The port’s location makes it the ideal choice, with direct access to the sea, allowing for quick delivery of raw materials and easy exporting of finished goods.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of Port of Sunderland, added: “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.”