HRH Duke of York visits

HRH Duke of York visits site of world-class research centre

His Royal Highness the Duke of York formally marked the start of construction work at the site of the University of Strathclyde's multi-million pound Power Network Demonstration Centre (PNDC).

The first its kind in Europe, the world class research centre will accelerate the adoption of new, 'smart' technologies, from advanced power grids to electric cars and intelligent household appliances.

The £12.5 million centre is being created by the University and leading energy companies including ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution, with support from Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Funding Council.

The Royal visit to the site at Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, signals the start of a programme of work that will see the state-of-the-art centre officially open in early 2012. Around 25 research and technical staff will be based there and will have access to the most advanced, control, monitoring and communications systems.

Professor Jim McDonald, Principal of the University, said: "The Royal visit to the site of the Power Network Demonstration Centre is an important milestone in this project and we are delighted to welcome the Duke of York back for his second visit to the University this year.

"The University's research capabilities and long-standing partnerships with industry put us in an ideal place to develop the next generation of smart, electrical technologies. The new centre will remove many of the barriers to these technologies, improve energy efficiency and ensure that we maintain a secure supply of power and define grids of the future - setting new standards in electrical distribution.

"The PNDC demonstrates our focus on useful learning in every area of the University and our reputation for high quality research with impact and relevance continues to attract inward investment and international business to Glasgow."

Prince Andrew was given a presentation on the PNDC and had a discussion with Professor McDonald and the key partners in the project, outlining the benefits in joint working between academia and industry.

Scottish Enterprise managing director of operations, sectors and commercialisation, Paul Lewis, said: "Power networks and grid technologies is a fast growing market and key to a low carbon economy. This investment puts Scotland at the forefront of this new market and will provide real benefits to companies, supporting them to commercialise innovative new electrical technologies and help increase their productivity and competitiveness.

"The PNDC is a key member of the Scottish Energy Laboratory, a network of internationally significant test and demonstration facilities. Over the next 10 years it will help to create 200 new high value jobs and generate £100 million of GVA in this key sector of the Scottish Economy."

Frank Mitchell, CEO of ScottishPower Energy Networks, said: "By providing access to a mini electricity grid that is not connected to the rest of the network this centre will act as a catalyst in the development of grid technologies that will have a vital role to play in the move to a low carbon economy in the UK.

"Smart grids will help reduce energy waste, make it easier for homes and business to generate their own renewable energy, and support smart meters and smart appliances for the home. It will also help the development of a charging system that will support the widespread introduction of electric vehicles."

Alan Broadbent, Head of Engineering at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution, said: "We are proud to be founding members of the Power Network Demonstration Centre, with its aim of bringing academia and business together to accelerate the development of smart grid technologies. Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution's core purpose is to provide the energy people need in a reliable and sustainable way and the PNDC will provide valuable learning to allow us to continue doing that as we move to a low carbon economy."

Mark Batho, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council added: "The Power Network Demonstration Centre is an important new resource for the University, its partners and for the Scottish economy. The Funding Council is pleased to have been able to support such an imaginative project. I have high hopes for it being an inspirational environment where new partnerships are formed and the sharing of engineering expertise and ideas can flourish.

"The Centre is another 'feather in the cap' for Scotland's innovative energy and engineering research, which will be beneficial to the economy by attracting inward investment and the export of new knowledge and expertise to the global market place."

Gareth Evans, Ofgem's Head of Profession, Engineering, said: "Britain's energy networks face significant new challenges over the next decade and Ofgem believes that innovation is crucial for success. We believe that the PNDC has the potential to accelerate the development of network innovations and particularly to help ensure these innovations are implemented effectively and safely."

Following the visit to the Cumbernauld site, Prince Andrew travelled to the University where he was taken on a tour of the campus. He visited the Energy Systems Research Unit where he was briefed on the work of Strathclyde spin-out company Nautricity, which has developed a marine turbine currently being tested in the Thames.

He then visited the Institute for Energy and Environment laboratories before viewing a presentation on the University's Centre for Doctoral Training in Wind Energy Systems. The tour concluded with a presentation on the Technology and Innovation Centre - Strathclyde's £89 million, flagship research base that will transform the way universities work with industry, create new jobs and attract inward and indigenous investment to Scotland.