An ill wind

Chief reporter

Media reports suggest plans to build three new offshore wind turbine manufacturing facilities that could create an estimated 60,000 new jobs will be cancelled following the Coalition government’s spending review.

The previous government pledged £60m towards upgrading the infrastructure around ports to enable wind turbine manufacturing in this country, crucial for delivering Round 3 offshore wind projects.

Following the former chancellor’s promise to beef up the ports, Siemens indicated it would invest more than £80m to develop an offshore wind turbine production facility in the UK. Similarly General Electric proposed spending around €110m on an offshore turbine factory in the UK that would employ 1,900 people.

Mitsubishi had earlier announced plans for investing up to £100m on an offshore wind turbine factory in the UK.

But the Guardian reports today the £60m promised for Britain’s ports is rumoured to become another casualty of the spending review. According to the newspaper, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which is to provide half the £60m required, is still fighting for the funds. However, this enthusiasm isn’t being echoed by the Department for Business, which was expected to give the other half, or the Treasury.

As The Engineer reported in June the government’s port investment is strategically important for the development of the offshore wind industry. The £60m competition would involve UK ports bidding for money to rejuvenate their facilities.

Despite all of the UK’s potential, its existing infrastructure is in no way capable of sustaining a turbine manufacturing industry. Especially considering the growing size of turbines, which would be impossible to transport on the country’s roads.

Any announcement signifying retracted support for the ports will likely scuttle plans for building offshore wind turbine plants in the UK. Siemens, for one, was clear its decision to build a plant in the UK was bolstered mostly by the government’s pledged support for port infrastructure.

As an island nation with currently the world’s largest installed offshore wind capacity and high-level of expertise in the field, the UK seems like a natural home for turbine manufacturing.

While recent figures suggest the wind industry is dipping into its first recession, the government shouldn’t be shortsighted. With renewable energy targets still needing to be met, the Coalition should be wary before making any moves that could discourage investment into an industry that will likely create jobs and boost the UK’s economy into the future.