Northern Powerhouse Minister launches multi-million pound Energy Centre at University of Chester's Thornton Science Park.

Posted on 14th August 2017

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

Paul Vernon, Senior Executive Director of Commercial Operations, and Chief Executive of Thornton Research Properties Limited gives the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, a tour of the Energy Centre
Paul Vernon, Senior Executive Director of Commercial Operations, and Chief Executive of Thornton Research Properties Limited gives the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, a tour of the Energy Centre

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 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).

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, officially opens the Energy Centre at Thornton with the Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, looking on

The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, officially opens the Energy Centre at Thornton with the Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, looking on.

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.

“It’s been a great pleasure to be opening, today, the Energy Centre at Thornton.”

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.”

The Energy Centre at Thornton is spread across three floors. Full details of the facility and the space available can be found at:

www1.chester.ac.uk/business-growth/projects/energy-centre-thornton

The University of Chester’s academic and commercial focus on energy is complemented further by Peel Environmental’s energy, innovation and industry hub, Protos next door to Thornton Science Park.

The Centre will also be home to the UK’s first intelligent campus microgrid control system. International technology company ABB was selected by the University to provide some of its leading edge technologies for the Energy Centre. This includes the overall control system that will act as the ‘brain’ of the microgrid, enabling the integration and optimum deployment of multiple energy sources and storage units connected to the same local power network. The individual elements within the microgrid will comprise a CHP (Combined Heat and Power) unit, diesel generation, solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, a new energy storage facility and a load bank. More details about the initiative can be found at: ABB to deploy the UK’s first intelligent campus microgrid control system

The Energy Centre already hosts a number of commercial tenants – the first on board being PowerHouse Energy Group plc which is already using the facility to research its gasification reactor: https://www.powerhouseenergy.net/powerhouse-energy-shares-burn-rubber-successful-test/

Left to right, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler; Professor Joe Howe, Executive Director and Professor of the Thornton Energy Research Institute at Thornton Science Park; the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP; Paul Vernon, Senior Executive Director of Commercial Operations, and Chief Executive of Thornton Research Properties Limited; Philip Cox, Chief Executive of Cheshire and Warrington LEP; Andrew Miller, former MP, who was instrumental in the establishment of Thornton Science Park

Left to right, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler; Professor Joe Howe, Executive Director and Professor of the Thornton Energy Research Institute at Thornton Science Park; the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP; Paul Vernon, Senior Executive Director of Commercial Operations, and Chief Executive of Thornton Research Properties Limited; Philip Cox, Chief Executive of Cheshire and Warrington LEP; Andrew Miller, former MP, who was instrumental in the establishment of Thornton Science Park

David Ryan, Director of PowerHouse Energy Group plc, said: “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.”

Paul Bowman is Finance Director of renewable energy company Dulas Ltd, another tenant already established in the Energy Centre. He said: “As a company that has always championed the renewable energy sector, Dulas Ltd. is thrilled to see the opening of the Energy Centre. It is hoped that this space will provide a valuable meeting point for Dulas to work with academia to research and develop world leading innovations. The suite of intelligent equipment is incredibly impressive and will enable so many cutting edge technological explorations.”

Energy Centre tenant Green Growth Power Ltd is a company converting biomass and solid waste into clean-carbon neutral fuel for decentralised power generation. Nick Tarditti from Green Growth Power said: “These are exciting times in renewable energy. After nearly 10 years of renewable energy development, we’ve reached a point where we can now reduce dependencies on centralised infrastructure-like power, sanitation, and information grids. The future is in decentralised systems, and it’s here now.  We are very excited about our research cooperation with the University of Chester. This important research will systematically push the limits of the capability of our systems to utilise readily available and abundant natural fuel sources (or waste streams) that can be converted into cost effective, clean, and renewable energy.”

CORE Additive Technologies provides chemical additives and services to the construction, oil and gas, road and environmental industries. It is also a tenant in the Energy Centre, carrying out technical service and development at Thornton. Managing Director Lee O’Nions said: “Our experience has been very positive and we have developed excellent links with the University through the sponsorship of PhD students and postgraduate projects. The Energy Centre is a great location to showcase how small companies are being encouraged through first class facilities and services.”

More information about Thornton Science Park can be found at: https://www1.chester.ac.uk/business-growth/locations/thornton-science-park

Companies wishing to find out more about the Energy Centre can contact:

  • Email: businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk
  • Tel: 01244 567 500
  • Twitter: @EnergyThornton 
  • Commercial Operations, University of Chester, Thornton Science Park, Pool Lane, Ince, Cheshire, CH2 4NU

The Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal of £142.7 million to be invested in Cheshire & Warrington will help to create up to 9,000 jobs, allow up to 400 homes to be built, and generate up to £50m in public and private investment. The Cheshire & Warrington Growth Deal is part of a £12 billion long-term programme to revitalise local economies.