Tata Steel has made a small but immensely important strategic investment at Scunthorpe steelworks to capitalise on renewable energy opportunities, especially wind.
Setting up the so-called wind tower hub has cost £1.3million and has so far created 19 new jobs. It is the sort of opportunity that Scunthorpe’s prior owner, Corus, should have seized but failed to.
The hub will process and distribute up to 200,000 tonnes each year of steel plate which is manufactured at the adjacent Scunthorpe plate mill, as well as at the Dalzell plate mill in Motherwell.
Tata Steel has bought a purpose-built Messer Omnimat profiling machine and installed it alongside two other profiling machines.
The machines, which use gas burners to cut the steel into the desired shape, can process up to 40,000 tonnes a year of profiled plate for delivery to manufacturers to be fabricated into tubular wind tower structures.
Phil Knowles, Tata Steel plate sales manager for the energy sector, said of the investment: “This new hub allows us to supply plate to wind turbine and tower manufacturers at exactly the right time in their production process. It also allows us to carry out further processing of our plate, enabling us to add extra value to the product.
“The profiling machines will cut the plates into shapes suitable for fabricating into conical towers. They can at the same time cut special edges on to the plate so that our customers can weld the edges together after the steel has been fabricated into a tubular structure and join these sections together to produce towers.”
While the first profiled plate has already left the new hub, the facility will continue to be commissioned over the next few months. When fully operational, 38 people will be working there.
Wind towers typically contain between 150 and 250 tonnes of steel. Most of the material Tata Steel will supply for such towers will be delivered to customers in the UK and mainland Europe, but the completed wind towers may be shipped around the world.
“Although this is a relatively new industry compared to some of our other market sectors, we’ve supplied steel for wind towers for seven years and we’ve worked hard to develop strong relationships with our customers,” added Knowles.
“This new facility will help us keep pace with a fast-maturing industry. It is also an investment in the UK wind energy supply base that will be needed if the UK is to realise its ambitious plans to build thousands of wind turbines over the next 10 years.”
Tata Steel makes a range of steel products for the renewable energy sector. In August the company revealed plans to build a new £31.5million manufacturing facility on Teesside to produce steel foundation structures (monopiles), which are used to secure offshore wind turbines to the seabed.
Tata Steel also announced it was investing £8million at its Dalzell mill in Motherwell to increase production of heavy levelled plate used in a number of applications, including foundations for offshore wind turbines.
Tata Steel Europe (formerly Corus) is Europe’s second largest steel producer. With main steel-making operations in the UK and the Netherlands, the company supplies steel and related services to the construction, automotive, packaging, material handling and other demanding markets worldwide.