Initially opened in 1970, the Clothier Electrical Testing Laboratory was taken over by the New and Renewable Energy Centre – Narec – in 2004.
The organization primarily continued with much of the onshore grid infrastructure technology development and validation work the high voltage lab was originally built for. They also tested the robustness of networks taking power from offshore locations to onshore sites, and was the only facility of its kind in the UK - developing smart grids and new network developments including integrating offshore wind turbines.
One of several Narec centres, Clothier Lab focused on electrical grid aspects of independent research projects and was a test facility for the development of offshore renewable energies including wind, wave, tidal.
However, when the Coalition came into power their pledge to close all regional development agencies meant that One NorthEast had to shut down, which left Narec to review their capacities and maintenance required by the large facility. Narec opted to relocate to a government-supported laboratory on their main campus in Blythe, Northumberland - leaving the Clothier facility, located in Hebburn, abandoned. The building has not been bought by anyone since its closure in 2011. The site remains the property of Siemens, an industrial engineering company.
Green activists have made the claim that the facility's closure was "a massive loss for UK research and development, and shows the real level of the support the government has for green technology research." Narec, however, calls the move beneficial and maintains that they have invested £150m in new facilities which position the UK as "a world-leader in the development of offshore renewable energy technologies" - citing their new Offshore Demonstration Project as evidence.
Last month, a group of urban explorers decided to visit the old factory. These are the pictures they took:
Editor's Note: This article was amended on 11th February 2013 to correct inaccuracies pertaining to the relocation and the work undertaken at the Clothier Testing Laboratory.