Vestas Wind Systems closes U.K. wind turbine blade factories

Although it will continue R&D, sales and service activities in St. Cross, Isle of Wight, U.K., Vestas Wind Systems A/S has ceased wind turbine blade production activities at the company’s sites on the Isle of Wight and in Southampton, U.K., resulting in the layoff of 425 employees.

Although it will continue R&D, sales and service activities in St. Cross, Isle of Wight, U.K., Vestas Wind Systems A/S (Randers, Demark) has ceased wind turbine blade production activities at the company’s sites on the Isle of Wight and in Southampton, U.K. resulting in the layoff of 425 employees. The closures, announced on Aug. 12 this year, followed a Vestas announcement in April that a downturn in market demand had reduced the need for production capacity in Northern Europe. At the same time, Vestas officials determined that, from the environmental and cost perspectives, it was unwise to ship turbines overseas to the growing market in the U.S. Vestas’ subsequent investment in a significant production base in the U.S. further reduced demand on production capacity in Northern Europe, where the company historically manufactured turbines for the U.S. market. The company’s Isle of Wight blade facility was hit the hardest, because blades previously produced there now are manufactured locally in North America. Although the company has installed almost 900 turbines with a total installed capacity of about 1,080 MW in the U.K. as of Dec. 31, 2008, plans to convert production at the factory to a blade type more suitable for the U.K. market were discontinued due to current lack of credit, weak currencies and flagging political support for and local planning obstacles to the plan at a local level, says the company. However, Vestas has reaffirmed its willingness, first expressed in April, to reconsider investing in new manufacturing capacity in the U.K. if and when the region’s  favorable wind conditions attract wind farm development sufficient to justify a production restart on the Isle of Wight.

The company says it will stick by its announced plans to expand its existing research and development activities on the Isle of Wight by making significant investments in a new blade technology center on the island, slated to open in 2011. The center now employs a staff of 110, and is expected to add 40 more by year’s end.

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