Given the truly harrowing scenes witnessed around the world in recent years caused by extreme weather events, humanity’s need to rapidly electrify from renewable energy sources has never been starker. Growing electromechanical engineers Houghton International are rising to help that challenge, investing significantly to support the country’s energy transition by creating a dedicated 20,000 sq ft wind turbine repair and life-extension facility at their Ronnie Mitten Works on Shields Road, Newcastle.

The company recently completed a repair and life-extension project on an Enercon direct drive wind turbine in the Faroe Islands – their second successful project on such equipment – and expect a large upturn in demand for their unique services in the coming years, driven by the world’s need to generate clean energy and reduce the length of outages experienced by wind farm owners and operators when their turbines fail.

The directors understand Houghton International is the world’s only company to be life-extending direct drive wind turbines other than their original manufacturers, given the complexity of the engineering challenge to do so, alongside the need for specialist facilities.

“With this project we took a world-first even further,” said Michael Mitten, CEO of the company. “We were a subcontractor on our first Enercon turbine repair project, but with this

one we were the primary contractor, leading the entire job: diagnosing the fault; specifying the solution which included a marked improvement in the generator’s insulation system and weather proofing from the original design; then managing safe dismantling and logistics; executing the whole repair and life extension project; as well as reinstalling and commissioning the unit. All under incredibly challenging conditions in the Faroe Island’s volatile weather environment.

“No other company in the world is offering a direct drive wind turbine repair and life-extension service, let alone primary project management. Our entire team, including our highly skilled subcontracted partners, really stepped up to the plate here, delivering huge value for our customer in a tight delivery window and incredibly challenging environment.”

Repairing and life-extending direct drive turbines, including upgrades to the original design, has taken roughly six months, which is far quicker than waiting for a new replacement that can take up to two years to be delivered. The new investment in creating a dedicated repair facility within the company’s existing Ronnie Mitten Works will reduce those lead times by roughly 20 per cent, meaning asset owners can return their generators into service far quicker, generating clean energy and profits much faster.

Importantly, repairing rather than replacing is essentially a carbon neutral process, because all the original equipment is being reused, and what is not reused is fully recycled with only a small percentage of waste material, meaning far less energy is consumed and less harmful greenhouse gasses are produced via the repair process compared to manufacturing an entire new unit.

Michael Mitten added: “By breathing new life into wind turbine generators alongside other components, we are redirecting asset owners toward investing in repairs and life-extension over replacements, offering a more sustainable and cost-effective path forward for the industry.

“Investing in facilities is one thing, but having the skills to do the work is another, hence we’ve recruited 10 new apprentices and trainees to support this future challenge. With this investment we are creating both the physical and human infrastructure to ensure we can cost effectively meet industry needs while supporting the necessary energy transition. The

manufacturers of new turbines should be focussed on building new units faster and cheaper, while the repair industry needs to mobilise itself globally to ensure the thousands of existing wind turbines out there keep running for as long as possible.”

The company expect the investment in their dedicated wind turbine repair facility to be complete by the end of 2023.