Northern Powerhouse Minister unveils multi-million pound energy facility in Chester, UK

UK-based Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, has officially opened one of the flagship facilities of the Northern Powerhouse and Cheshire Science Corridor - the Energy Centre at Thornton Science Park.

The Northern Powerhouse is a proposal to boost economic growth in the North of England by the 2010-15 coalition government and 2015-2017 Conservative government in the UK, particularly in the “core cities” of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle.  

Designed to promote growth and acceleration in the development and exploitation of technologies for the energy market, the new Energy Centre is already providing a flexible place where industry and academia come together to innovate, develop and demonstrate new intelligent energy technologies.

Welcomed by the University of Chester’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Wheeler, the Minister was given a tour of the state-of-the-art facility – which was created following the repurposing of an existing building on the former Shell Technology Centre site, successfully conducted by construction company Willmott Dixon.

Examples of technologies that may be tested and developed include:

  • New types of photovoltaic solar cells
  • Innovative electrical energy storage solutions
  • Developments in low power motor drives
  • New algorithms for load balancing on micro-grids
  • Non-electrical energy systems such as heat networks and thermal storage.

Located within an Enterprise Zone site, and drawing on the wealth of technical expertise, facilities and supporting infrastructures that are available at Thornton, the Centre is a space where industry can work alongside the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering (this is also happening throughout Thornton Science Park).

In a statement, The University of Chester, stated: “It is destined to become a nationally significant facility, primarily aimed at supporting and enabling energy research, innovation, technology development and demonstration, to meet the growth needs of the sector. With access to the latest equipment and expertise for energy technology development, energy companies are already testing at scale new power saving and distribution technologies, aiding the development of low cost, environmentally responsible sources of energy.”

The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, said: “How exciting that the place that was responsible for fuelling the Lancaster Bomber and Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One car, will now be fuelling the Northern Powerhouse.”

Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, said: “The University is extremely proud of The Energy Centre. This is a flagship innovation project for the Cheshire Science Corridor, of which our Thornton Science Park is a designated site. The state-of-the-art building is offering companies unrivalled possibilities to allow ‘lightbulb’ moments to happen, as researchers ‘plug and play’ with a number of facilities, across all aspects of energy systems (conventional and unconventional) and smart grids.

“Thornton has already played host to several Government ministers, including two Chancellors of the Exchequer, and the fact that the Northern Powerhouse Minister has opened this facility is further proof of its regional – and national - importance.”

The Energy Centre development was part-funded by the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), which contributed £6.8m from the Local Growth Fund, awarded as part of the LEP’s Growth Deal, alongside £8m invested from the University to create a facility for the ‘development, testing and demonstration of current and future energy technologies’.

Philip Cox, chief executive of Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “Cheshire and Warrington is one of the best performing economies in the country, with the second highest income per head of any area in England outside of London, and the area’s continued growth will make a significant contribution to the success of the Northern Powerhouse.

“We’re delighted to welcome the Northern Powerhouse Minister to see some of the significant science and technology assets we have here in the Cheshire Science Corridor, such as the Energy Centre at Thornton, which has benefitted from major government investment through the Local Growth Fund.”

David Ryan, director of PowerHouse Energy Group, explained: “The Energy Centre and the staff supporting us have provided Powerhouse Energy with the ideal location to refine our technology, with facilities aligned to innovation and staff committed to supporting it.”

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