General Electric (GE) is to build a €110m (£99m) offshore wind turbine factory in the UK, creating up to 1,900 new jobs by 2020, the company said yesterday.
The US-owned group is the latest in a slew of companies committing to the British offshore wind industry, including Mitsubishi and Clipper Wind.
GE has not yet decided where the factory will be located, because it is waiting for the outcome of the £60m ports development competition announced in this week's Budget. The scheme is for the development of port sites to meet the needs of offshore wind turbine manufacturers looking to build new facilities in Britain.
GE's main criterion in selecting the UK was the potentially massive local demand, the company said yesterday. Britain needs £100bn-worth of offshore wind capacity to meet the Government's 2020 carbon-reduction plan, creating an industry that could be employing 70,000 people by the deadline.
The decision does not include any direct grants, but government policies have played a role, as have skills developed in the North Sea oil and gas industry, the company said. "Supportive policies and incentive structures like the Renewable Obligation Certificates regime were a factor," Magued Eldaief, the managing director of GE Energy UK, said. "It was a combination of factors: talent, proximity to the market and supportive policies and incentives."
The company's plans were welcomed by the Government yesterday as evidence that efforts to create a world-leading offshore wind industry are producing results.
"We're creating the right conditions and incentives to maximise the potential of our wind resource," Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, said. "Now we have another leading player entering the offshore wind market as a result. GE's investment will create new jobs and help the supply chain flourish, reinforcing the UK as the destination for offshore wind investment."
Alongside its UK investment yesterday, GE also revealed plans to build offshore wind turbine plants in Germany, Norway and Sweden, but with a much smaller impact. The German plans are worth €105m (£94m) and will create approximately 100 jobs; in Norway it will spend €75m (£67m) and create another 100 jobs; in Sweden it will spend $50m (£34m) and create around 50 jobs.
All four facilities will be used to develop a new four-megawatt turbine specifically designed for the harsh conditions of offshore farms. It will use technology from GE's ScanWind acquisition late last year which avoids the use of a gearbox, producing systems which are sufficiently reliable for instalment out at sea.
The company says it does not yet have any firm UK orders but that it is in talks with a number of the companies holding licences from the Round Three auction concluded by the Crown Estate last year. The factory will aim to sell turbines into both the domestic and European market.
Tom Delay, the chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: "GE's announcement today turns the vision of the UK as an industrial hub for the offshore wind industry into a reality. It provides proof that offshore wind presents a huge economic opportunity for the UK."