The UK could be a global leader in offshore wind energy component manufacturing in the next decade with new support promised by the government.

In its recently released Low Carbon Industrial Strategy, the government said it will provide £120m to fund the development of a British-based offshore wind industry.

The details of the report were released on the same day the UK’s only significant manufacturer of wind turbines, Vestas, ceased production at its plant in Newport, Isle of Wight.

The more than 600 employees at the plant and its related Southampton production site will be made redundant at the end of the month.

Charles Anglin, spokesman for the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), said the UK was an unfriendly market for wind turbine manufacturers such as Vestas. The reason, he added, is the installation of onshore wind farms in the UK are constantly delayed by cumbersome planning processes and local opposition to what some deem as visually offensive turbines.

Anglin said the government’s refocus on offshore wind farms could make the widespread installation of turbines more likely.

‘Here in Europe we’re expecting to see 40-50GW worth of offshore sites identified and developed in the next decade,’ he said. ‘Half of that will be in the UK. Europe will be 90 per cent of the world market and we will have half the European market.’

The BWEA commissioned a report last October that showed if half the turbines for the UK’s offshore market were manufactured in this country it would create 60,000 jobs both directly and further down the supply chain within a decade. The report also indicated this would require £60bn worth of private investment.

Anglin said the government’s Low Carbon Industrial Strategy is a step towards making this possible.

‘There is real progress being made but what the government has to do is try and make it clear to people why it’s attractive for them to open the factories here,’ he added.

‘There are a number of reasons, but one is that you want to be close to where your market is and 45 per cent of the world market will be here in the UK.’

Anglin said it is important for a wind energy manufacturer to be close to the market it is servicing because it is extremely expensive to transport enormous wind turbines. He added the exchange rate and weaker pound is now significantly more advantageous. ‘It’s much less attractive to import products from the euro zone and more attractive to build the products here in the UK,’ he said. ‘I think there is a lot of call for optimism.’

Siobhan Wagner