Policy Payoff: Offshore Wind Turbine Factory For Scotland

Maybe this is what happens if you have a national policy that encourages not just incremental but radical transitioning to renewable energy: Not only do you get clean energy, you get a lot of the manufacturing infrastructure that comes with it.

Renewable energy advocates in the U.K. are making that argument after the announcement of an agreement that will bring an Areva offshore wind turbine factory to the East of Scotland. Samsung, Gamesa and Mitsubishi, among others, are already setting up shop in the Firth of Forth area, and the Areva factory, where it will make its 5-megawatt turbines and blades, is expected to create 750 jobs.

Areva Scotland wind turbine factory

image via Areva

Led by First Minister Alex Salmond, Scotland has been rocketing ahead on renewable energy. When he became first minister in 2007, the goal was for the country to produce 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 – but it’s already at 35 percent, so the target date has been moved forward to 2015.

“Factories like those planned by Areva will provide the jobs of the future. Parents are asking where their children will find employment – the answer is in the renewable energy sector,” Maria McCaffery, head of the industry group RenewableUK, said in a statement. “Britain’s offshore wind industry is on the threshold of delivering thousands of manufacturing jobs at a time when the country needs them most.”

But while Scotland has been steadfast in its commitment to renewables, the U.K. coalition government in London has shown signs of wavering, and in early October Reuters reported that “seven of the biggest wind investors, including turbine-makers Vestas and Gamesa, warned the government in a letter seen by Reuters that a shift in political support could push them to take their money elsewhere.”

This has RenewableUK worried that the planned investments could fail to materialize.

“It’s now time for the U.K. government to nail its colors to the mast and make sure these planned investments come to fruition,” McCaffery said. “We need to put the recent political spats over energy policy behind us and focus on what we need most – jobs, investment and securing a way of generating clean energy on an unprecedented scale.”

A new report from Navigant’s BTM Consulting suggests that offshore will indeed continue to grow in Europe. The report predicts that by the end of 2021, “Europe will account for 63.4 percent of total global offshore wind installation and maintain its position as global market leader.”

Areva said its strategy is to have three main industrial hubs in Europe, one in Bremerhaven, Germany, another in Le Havre, France, and the one in East Scotland. The company said it chose East Scotland “to optimize logistics costs for UK projects and to benefit from a growing cluster of offshore supply chain businesses in the area.”

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.

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