The decision follows Vestas' announcement on 28 April 2009 that it would reduce production capacity for wind turbines in Northern Europe as conditions in these markets have not met the company's expectations. In recent years all the wind turbine blades produced at the aforementioned factories have been exported to the USA. However, shipping wind turbines overseas no longer makes sense from an environmental and cost perspective, as they can instead be provided locally, Vestas says.
Plans to convert production at the factory to a wind blade type more suitable for the UK wind market were discontinued due to the current unfavourable market conditions caused by the credit crunch, weak currencies and lacking political support at a local level.
Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, says: “We asked Vestas, ‘is this about government money? Would government money to convert the plant for blades in the UK help?’ They said no. They just don’t get enough orders in the UK to justify keeping that plant.”
In particular, the local planning process for onshore wind power plants in the UK remains an obstacle to the development of the market. Miliband says: “Planning is a huge issue: Local Councils around the country are turning down wind turbine proposals-lots of people say we don’t want turbines in our own backyard. We’re not going to have the world’s largest wind turbine industry if the majority of wind turbine projects get turned down for planning permission.
"The biggest thing we can do for onshore wind production and for people like the workers at Vestas is change people’s minds about onshore wind because if we don’t have any onshore wind being built we won’t have an onshore wind industry”.
Ole Borup Jakobsen, President of Vestas Blades, adds: “The decision to close the factory was very difficult. Nonetheless, this commercial decision was absolutely necessary to secure Vestas competiveness and create a regional balance between production and the demand for wind turbines."
Vestas proceeds with plans to expand its existing research and development activities for wind turbines on the Isle of Wight by making significant investments in a new wind turbine blade technology centre on the island. Miliband says the Government is putting £10 million into offshore wind on the island, hoping Vestas will employ a couple of hundred people at the R&D facility. The centre will be capable of designing, manufacturing prototypes and testing the world's largest wind turbine blades and is scheduled to open in 2011.
Vestas has announced that it will consider investing in new wind turbine manufacturing capacity in the UK in the future, if it develops into a strong and stable market.