Vestas Ditches UK Giant Offshore Turbine Plant

Vestas, the struggling wind power giant, shook the sector today with the announcement that it was abandoning its plan to build a big manufacturing plant at the Port of Sheerness in England.

Vestas had inteded to do nacelle assembly and blade manufacturing for its giant new V164-7.0 Megawatt (MW) offshore wind turbine at the plant in Kent, about 45 miles east of London. Just one problem with that plan: Nobody was willing to step forward and buy the turbines.

vestas turbine factory sheerness

image via Vestas

“Such a factory is conditional on concrete orders in our order book and we have not announced any signed orders at this point,” a Vestas spokesman told Reuters. “We want a good pipeline of orders before we advance further and we do not have that.”

Wind power in Europe had been on a steep growth curve recently, but it’s expensive – especially offshore wind – and uncertainty about how and even whether all the costly projects envisioned can be built is taking a toll.

In Britain, a growing number of Conservatives MPs have criticized subsidies for wind development, leading Energy Secretary Ed Davey to defend it as of “strategic national importance.”

Wind backers tried to put shrug off the Vestas-Sheerness announcement.

“Naturally we are disappointed with this decision, but as the world-leader in offshore wind, the UK remains an attractive place for manufacturers and members of the supply chain to have a base,” Maria McCaffery, CEO of the industry group RenewableUK, said in a statement. “This is why we’re seeing interest from a number of parties – just last week Areva announced their interest in a UK factory, subject to market certainty around Electricity Market Reform. Investors in both projects and employment are poised to follow through on pledges but delivery on green jobs needs certainty and confidence in the market with clarity on implementation arrangements and timescales.”

Vestas and the port originally said the plant would employ around 2,000 people, although that number was more recently scaled back to 1,600. Since announcing its plans a year ago, Vestas, which builds 40 percent of the world’s offshore wind turbines, has been skidding downward. In February it announced a huge loss, leading to the resignation of its chief finance officer. More recently, reports of a possible Chinese takeover have surfaced.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.