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Renewable energy chairman sets sights on centre of excellence

Glasgow has the potential to become a world leader in wind and marine energy, according to Colin Hood, the chairman of the Technology Strategy Board’s offshore renewable energy catapult centre.

Hood, whose appointment was announced last week, wants the city to be known as a centre of excellence.

“When people think of renewable energy I want them to think of Glasgow—I want it to be a go-to area for people looking for ideas,” he said.

The catapult is one of a number of projects in the pipeline at the University of Strathclyde, including a Technology and Innovation Centre set up with loans from the European Investment Bank, the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Enterprise.

Hood expects this will create a technology hub at Strathclyde, with “lots of people, lots of ideas and lots of innovation”.

The catapult centre’s first priority will be wind power, rather than wave and tidal energy, says Hood, as marine technologies are further from commercial use. The catapult will move into these areas later.

“Speed is of the essence here,” he told Research Fortnight Today. “There’s a very clear and pressing need to get wind energy started and there’s a lot of competition. We need to get in there first or we risk losing UK market value.”

According to Hood in order to attract funding for wind farms—which can be up to £1 billion—industrial partners want low risks.

“We have to make sure we understand the hazards and have risk mitigation methods,” Hood said. “We also need to get the initial capital costs down by between 25 and 30 per cent before it becomes an acceptable commercial opportunity.”

For Hood, though, the most pressing challenge is to recruit a chief executive, a board and a team, and he aims to have the centre fully funded and resourced by the end of this financial year.

“All the people in the industry are trying to unlock renewable energy, and we want to be a major part of that,” he said.